Two more prefectures outside the immediate Tokyo area have decided to bar fans from attending Olympic events because of rising coronavirus infections, Tokyo Olympic organizers confirmed on Saturday with the pandemic-delayed games opening in just under two weeks.
Tokyo organizers and the IOC earlier in the week barred all fans from venues in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. They make up the overwhelming majority of Olympic venues, although a smattering of outlying areas were allowed initially to have limited attendance.
All fans from abroad were banned months ago.
Now, two prefectures that were permitted to have fans have backed out of those plans.
Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan has decided to hold its baseball and softball events without spectators. It has been joined by the northern prefecture of Hokkaido, which will hold soccer games without fans at the Sapporo Dome.
“Many people including children have been looking forward to the games, and I’m very sorry to take away their chance of watching baseball and softball at the stadium,” Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori said Saturday. “It was a very tough decision to make.”
Fukushima was the early focus of the Olympics, trying to shine a light on recovery efforts in an area devastated in 2011 by an earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent meltdown of three nuclear reactors.
Uchibori said the move by Hokkaido on Friday encouraged him to follow suit. He said it was important to have consistency among prefectures.
A few other events being held in the outlying prefectures of Miyagi, Shizuoka and Ibaraki will go ahead with limited spectators, organizers said Saturday.
IOC President Thomas Bach probably didn’t notice, but on Saturday about 40 people staged a small anti-Olympic protest outside the five-star hotel where he is self-isolating after arriving in Tokyo on Thursday.
“He (Bach) seems not to have thought anything about our critical situation and suffering, which makes me more angry,” protester Ayako Yoshida said.Polls have shown between 50-80 percent of Japanese oppose holding the Olympics, depending on how the question is phrased. But opponents have failed to martial large turnouts in the streets.