Tokyo Olympics To Be Held Without An Audience After Increase In COVID-19 Cases
The latest development is yet another setback for the games, which have faced delays, budget issues, and new restrictions for athletes.
After being plagued with budget dilemmas and an unprecedented postponement, the 2021 Olympics will be showcased without in-person spectators as COVID-19 continues to surge in Japan.
On Thursday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Tokyo games, set to take place July 23 to August 8, would go on without an in-person audience as a result of a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. The announcement came just hours after Japan declared a state of emergency, as the highly-infectious delta variant spreads across the country and the world. In the past week, Japan has reported more than 11,000 new COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Only about 15% of the population is fully vaccinated against the virus, leaving a large portion of the population susceptible to severe illness.
The IOC had initially planned to allow 10,000 people, or 50% of a venue to attend the games, and banned foreign spectators altogether.
“It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said on Thursday. “I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”
According to the Olympics website, ticket holders will be automatically refunded. But those who purchased tickets last year from third-party, authorized sources, have reportedly faced difficulties getting a refund.
Japan’s state of emergency will begin July 12 and continue until August 22, multiple outlets reported.
The pandemic forced a one-year postponement for the Olympics, a delay which the Olympics organizing committee revealed in December cost more than $2.8 billion. Japan originally invested $12.6 billion to host the games. Those added costs are due to contract re-negotiations and added COVID-19 safety precautions, according to the Associated Press.