Tokyo Olympics to be held without foreign fans

The Tokyo Olympics are forging ahead but without foreign spectators.
The Tokyo Olympics are forging ahead but without foreign spectators.
Image: Getty Images

Most Japanese citizens don’t want the large international event to begin with. But now, according to the Kyodo News, the Japanese government will not allow foreign spectators to attend this summer’s Olympics and Paralympic Games. The decision to bar overseas fans, according to the report, stems from lingering concerns about the coronavirus and its contagious variants spreading in other countries.

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The news comes after a recent Yomiuri newspaper poll found 77 percent of Japanese citizens opposed allowing international spectators to the games. In the same poll, 48 percent of respondents said they did not want any fans at Olympic venues, while 45 percent wanted fans in stands. According to the report, the Olympic organizing committees and Tokyo’s city government will make the call about in-person attendance next month.

The torch relay, set to kick off in just over two weeks, will start without spectators. But the road to the postponed 2021 games has been, and will continue to be, rough for the host nation.

In January, a Kyodo News poll found 80 percent of Japanese citizens were in favor of postponing the games again or canceling them outright. Then, former Tokyo Olympic chief and Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshiro Mori, spouted sexist comments, didn’t resign, then, after public outrage, finally left.

The Kyodo News said over a million foreign spectators “were estimated to enter Japan.” The story also said the Olympic committee was expected to make 90 billion yen (around $830 million in U.S. dollars) from total ticket sales. Now, Tokyo organizers will have to give refunds to overseas visitors.

At the last Olympics in 2018, international fans accounted for 20 percent of tickets sold. And with the postponement reportedly already costing $15 billion, don’t expect the Japanese government or Tokyo organizing committee to bar domestic spectators.

While Japan’s COVID rates have been low compared to the U.S. and the rest of the world, Tokyo is still in a state of emergency and the island nation banned foreign nationals from entering the country in late December. But more than 11,000 athletes are expected to arrive in the coming months. What could go wrong?

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The government’s decision to listen to its citizens and bar international fans in a global pandemic sounds nice. And it seems like a rational move considering the circumstances. But the Japanese government also had the opportunity to listen to an overwhelming majority of its citizens who want nothing to do with these games. Instead, the leaders chose to plug their ears.