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9 Mar, 2021 14:49

Japan ‘to ban overseas fans from attending Olympics’ as Covid concerns grow ahead of Tokyo Games – report

Japan ‘to ban overseas fans from attending Olympics’ as Covid concerns grow ahead of Tokyo Games – report

The Japanese government is set to prevent foreign fans from attending this summer's rearranged 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in a bid to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to reports on Tuesday.

Japanese officials from the organizing committee of the Games will hold talks with representatives from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the coming days, when a formal decision is expected to be made about the possibility of disallowing fans from attending the multi-sport tournament, according to a report from the Kyodo News Agency.

Leaders are said to have concluded that welcoming fans from numerous different countries throughout the Games would present an unnecessary risk for an increase in Covid-19 infections – particularly given the swathe of new variants of the virus which continue to be discovered across the globe. 

The coronavirus was responsible for the postponement of the Olympics from last summer to this coming July.

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Japan currently refuses entry to the country to non-nationals as the country continues to attempt to rebound from a spate of infections so far in 2021, leading to around 2,500 cases per day being recorded during parts of January in the capital city alone. 

While any ban on foreign attendees will likely help restrict opportunities for new infections, the Japanese government will be left to count the cost of any such measures. The Games had been highlighted as an opportunity to help the country's economic recovery through an influx of tourism.

The one-year postponement has already inflated costs to the tune of around $15 billion, with ticket sales for foreign fans predicted to have been somewhere north of $800 million. The Japanese organizing committee are now faced with the task of refunding those who had already purchased tickets. 

"We would really like people from around the world to come to a full stadium but, unless we are prepared to accept them and the medical situation in Japan is perfect, it will cause a great deal of trouble also to visitors from overseas," Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the committee, said last week.

It has also been revealed that the opening ceremony will take place without fans in attendance.

"The organizing committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the north-eastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic," officials were quoted as saying.

A recent newspaper poll of Japanese citizens revealed that as many as 77 percent of the population do not want international visitors to attend for fear of sparking a resurgence in Covid-19 cases. 

The Tokyo Olympics are set to kick off on July 23, running until August 8. 

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