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Olympics: Tokyo announces its 4th state of emergency, banning spectators

Could this be the 1st Olympics Games to ban spectators?

Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto speaks in Tokyo.
Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto speaks during a press conference, in Tokyo, Thursday, July 8, 2021. The Olympics will proceed without spectators, officials say.
Behrouz Mehri, Associated Press

The roller coaster story of the delayed Tokyo Olympics has another development: Olympic venues in Tokyo will not allow domestic spectators. The announcement came Thursday when Tokyo announced another COVID-19 state of emergency, reported CNN.

  • In March, foreign spectators were banned from traveling to Japan to watch the Olympics, reported the Deseret News.

Why is Tokyo extending the state of emergency?

Tokyo’s third coronavirus state of emergency ended June 20, but the city has remained under a “quasi-emergency” since then, said CNN. Cases have begun rising again, prompting officials to announce a fourth state of emergency and related restrictions.

  • Tokyo’s state of emergency will last from July 12 to Aug. 22 — encapsulating the entire Olympic Games, said CNN.
  • All restaurants and bars cannot serve alcohol and must close by 8 p.m., reported BBC.

Last week, Tokyo recorded 714 new COVID-19 cases. Wednesday, the city recorded 920 new cases, per CNN. This is the highest caseload since outbreaks mid-May. Health officials have said the delta variant now accounts for up to 30% of coronavirus cases.

  • Tokyo’s virus surge is in line with expert estimations of COVID-19 outbreaks, according to The Associated Press.
  • Only 15% of Japan’s population has been vaccinated, said CNN.

The International Olympic Committee announced in May that it would hold the Olympic Games even if Japan was in a state of emergency, reported the Deseret News. The IOC now faces that exact situation, per CNN.

Why are spectators banned from the Olympics?

Previously, Olympic venues said they would allow up to 10,000 domestic spectators, or about 50% of the total venue capacity. However, due to the state of emergency, Olympic venues in Tokyo will not allow any spectators, reported the BBC.

  • Officials still have not decided if they will allow spectators in the 17 venues outside of Tokyo, per CNN.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshida Suga made the announcement Thursday, saying, “taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” via BBC.

Japanese Olympic Committee President Seiko Hashimoto also spoke Thursday, saying “a very heavy judgment was made,” with organizers having “no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way,” per CNN.

  • “It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Hashimoto said via BBC. “I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”

The lack of spectators will likely affect athletes as they compete, reported CNN. For better or for worse, athletes will not have the energy of the crowd influencing their performance.