(20-Mar) -- In a widely anticipated announcement, organizers of the Tokyo Olympic Games announced today that overseas spectators would not be permitted at the Games due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The decision, which was not a surprise, was made after a teleconference with the so-called Five Parties: the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Organizing Committee Tokyo 2020 and the Government of Japan. Overseas ticket holders will receive refunds, although the mechanics of the refund process were not announced.
PHOTO: Tokyo Olympic Stadium (photo courtesy of Tokyo 2020)
"We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes, who were planning to come to the Games," said IOC President Thomas Bach through a statement. "For this I am truly sorry. We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody. We have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that it will require sacrifices."
Accredited persons from overseas (athletes, broadcasters, officials, journalists, team delegations, etc.) will still be permitted to enter the country, and will have to follow the restrictions set forth in the various stakeholder playbooks which Tokyo 2020 had previously issued. Accredited persons will not be permitted to mix with the Japanese public and cannot use public transportation. No exceptions have been made --at least not yet-- for vaccinated persons. Those playbooks will be updated next month.
In today's statement, Games organizers stressed that the trajectory of the pandemic was just too difficult to predict, and that making their decision on overseas spectators now would give all parties enough time to adjust their plans.
"In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games," read the organizing committee's statement. "This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."
How many Japanese fans will be allowed to watch events in person when the Games open on July 23, has yet to be determined. The ticket refund process will likely take several months to complete.