Spectators will be barred from attending all Olympic Games, Asahi daily reported Thursday. Organizers of the event decided on the action as Tokyo prepared to extend its state of emergency given the recent rise in new coronavirus infections.
The newspaper said organizers and local government officials reached the decision after their five-way talks. The ban is the latest blow to the international sporting event, which had already been delayed by a year because of the health crisis.
The decision is also expected to further strain the Games' budget, which has already reached an estimated $15.4 billion. Ticket revenues are expected to tank and it is unclear how officials will be able to make up for the losses.
Even before the decision, health experts had recommended a full ban on spectators at the games as it could transform them into "superspreader" events. Previous polls also showed that the majority of the public was concerned that the influx of foreign athletes and fans could fuel a new wave of infections.
To ease public concerns, Olympic Games organizers had agreed to ban all foreign fans from attending the event. Local fans were allowed to attend the events but venues were limited only to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 people per event.
With the recent decision, public viewing sites for the various games have been closed down. Sources said some companies have pulled out from advertising during the events because of fears of public opposition. Organizers have assured sponsors and advertisers that they have plans in place to ensure maximum visibility even if there would be no spectators at the events.
After Tokyo reported 920 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday - the highest since mid-May - the government announced that it would be extending the city's state of emergency. Japan's economy minister Yasutoshi Nishimura and head of the nation's Covid-19 response, said the declaration will be extended through Aug. 22.
Nishimura said the some of the current restrictions in place in Tokyo and three other neighboring prefectures will be tightened. He said some restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol.