Fans cannot watch the Tokyo Olympics that will open in two weeks, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said after meeting with International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organizers on Thursday.
The ban came hours after a state of emergency in the capital starting from Monday, declared by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to contain rising coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.
The twin decisions have turned the Olympics into a made-for-TV event in a decision pushed by the Japanese government and supported by the International Olympic Committee.
“Many people were looking forward to watching the games at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home,” Koike said after the meeting.
Fans from aboard were banned months ago, and the new measures will clear venues around Tokyo — indoor and outdoor — of any fans at all.
The emergency declaration made for a rude arrival in Japan for IOC President Thomas Bach, who landed in Tokyo on Thursday just hours before the new measures were announced. He was to spend three days in self-isolation at the five-star hotel that lodges IOC members.
Suga said the state of emergency would go into effect on Monday and last through Aug. 22. This means the Olympics, opening on July 23 and running through Aug. 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on Aug. 24.
“Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures,” Suga said.
Suga, who had long favored fans, hinted at a no-fan Olympics in announcing the state of emergency.
“I have already said I won’t hesitate to have no spectators,” he added.
The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.
“How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said.
The no-fan atmosphere will include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium, which is traditionally the most watched event during the Olympics.