Tokyo Olympics Ban Spectators Amid State of Emergency as COVID Cases Rise

The Tokyo Olympics has officially banned spectators from attending the games. The decision comes amid a state of emergency in Japan as Covid-19 cases continue to rise again. Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga made the state of emergency announcement on Thursday, explaining that his government "must take stronger steps to prevent another nationwide outbreak, also considering the impact of coronavirus variants."

At the time, a formal decision on Olympics spectators had not been revealed, though the prime minister did say he was not ruling out the possibility of limiting spectators. Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan's minister in charge of the nation's COVID-19 response, spoke to a panel of experts on Thursday and stated that the country is doing everything it can to limit travel and crowds for the next couple of months. "We are hoping to keep people from moving around during the summer break and the Bon holidays until vaccinations move further along," Nishimura said. This, undoubtedly, had an impact on the decision to ban spectators at the Tokyo Olympics.

The move comes after the International Olympic Committee had announced new spectator capacities, in June. "In light of the government's restrictions on public events, the spectator limit for the Olympic Games will be set at '50 per cent of venue capacity, up to a maximum of 10,000 people' at all venues," the IOC said at the time. It added, "Students in the schools' spectator programme and their supervisors will not be considered in these numbers, and will be treated separately as they are not spectators."

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Notably, the announcement did take into consideration the possibility of an SoE being called. "However, in the event that a state of emergency or other priority measures aimed at preventing infection are implemented at any time after 12 July 2021," the statement read, "restrictions on spectator numbers at the Games, including non-spectator competitions, will be based on the content of the state of emergency or other relevant measures in force at that time." The IOC added, "The equivalent policies governing the Paralympic Games will be decided by 16 July 2021, a week before the opening of the Olympic Games."