Tokyo venues for the pandemic-delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics will not have spectators due to the city’s coronavirus state of emergency through the Games, according to the Japanese Olympic Committee.
The announcement was made following a meeting of five Olympic and Japanese government groups responsible for the Games.
Japanese Olympic Committee Seiko Hashimoto said due to the pandemic, organizers have “no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”
According to an IOC spokesman, it’s unprecedented for a host city’s venues not to have spectators.
There are total 42 venues listed on the Tokyo 2020 website. Twenty-five are in Tokyo and the rest are in seven other prefectures.
However, three prefectures near Tokyo — Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — will not have spectators at Olympic competition venues, according to Hashimoto.
Miyagi, Fukushima, and Shizuoka prefectures have decided that venues can be filled to 50% of capacity with a maximum of 10,000 spectators, added Hashimoto.
When asked by reporters if stakeholders would have access to venues, Toshiro Muto, the CEO of Tokyo 2020 said International Olympic Committee (IOC) members and National Olympic Committee (NOC) executives would not be counted as spectators and would continue to have access to venues as they have “roles to play during the Games.”
Muto said that these members will be required to have accreditation to have access to the venues.
Tokyo 2020 organizers will review the decision to allow stakeholders into the Olympic stadium during the Opening Ceremony on 23 July, according to Hashimoto.
Earlier on Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshide Suga had confirmed the Games would be held under a state of emergency.
“The number of infected cases in the area including Tokyo has been increasing since the end of last month,” said Suga, speaking at the start of the government’s Covid-19 task force meeting.
The new state of emergency for the capital will run from July 12 to August 22 — covering the 16 days of the embattled Games in its entirety.
“The number of severe cases and bed occupancy rate continues to be on the low level, but considering the impact of variants, we need to enhance countermeasures so that the infection will not spread nationwide,” added Suga.
Suga added that a ban on serving alcohol in restaurants will continue during the state of emergency.
The spectator decision comes as Tokyo reported 920 new infections for Wednesday — the highest daily caseload since the middle of May.
“There is a remarkable increase of infections especially in the big cities in the Tokyo area,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of the country’s pandemic response. The more infectious Delta variant now accounts for up to 30% of cases, he added.
The state of emergency — the fourth in the Japanese capital since the pandemic began — will cover the entire period of the Olympics, which are scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8.
Last month, Olympic organizers said spectators would be allowed at the Games, with a cap of 10,000 people per venue or 50% of venue capacity. Organizers had already decided to ban overseas fans from the stands in March.
IOC President Thomas Bach landed in Tokyo on Thursday morning, and is observing a three-day self-isolation in his hotel.
The ban on spectators is likely to be a big disappointment for some athletes.
Sport climber Akiyo Noguchi said she derives tremendous power from performing in front of a big crowd, and creating that motivation and energy will be harder without cheers from the bleachers.
“I feel very sad. I wanted to be in the Olympics because I wanted to show my best performance in front of my family and supporters, but this will not be in the form that I’ve been imagining,” she told CNN previously.
Tokyo lifted its previous round of state of emergency on June 20, at the end of the country’s fourth wave of infections. It has continued to impose restrictions under a softer “quasi-emergency,” such as an 8 p.m. curfew on dine-in service at restaurants. But cases have been rising again, prompting health experts to call for stricter measures.
Japan has lagged behind Western countries in rolling out its vaccination drive. Only 15% of its population are fully vaccinated, compared to 47% in the United States and nearly 50% in the UK, according to CNN’s global vaccine tracker.