THE BIG PICTURE: Japan extends state of emergency to 22 August, so Tokyo Games will be mostly without spectators

Will there be any fans at Tokyo 2020's Olympic Stadium for the Games? NOPE. (Photo: Tokyo 2020)

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“In response to the state of emergency, stricter measures with regard to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have also been decided by the three Japanese parties. No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games.

“Under this policy, in areas where emergency measures are not in force, local government authorities will meet and decide specific measures in consultation with the local governors based on the situation in each area.”

The first Olympic Games to be postponed will likely be the first Olympic Games with few or no spectators.

A five-party meeting of the Japanese national government, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 organizing committee and the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee held this morning (Thursday) noted that the new declaration of a state of emergency in the Tokyo area through 22 August makes having spectators at venues in the Tokyo area impractical. A short, joint statement was issued, but there will be more details to come.

Japan’s Kyodo News Service reported that 920 Covid-19 infections in the Tokyo prefecture were recorded on Wednesday and another 896 on Thursday, continuing a high level that has worried the government. So:

“In addition to Tokyo, the Olympics will be held behind closed doors at venues in Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama, three prefectures near Tokyo, Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa said at a press conference. Some other venues of the Olympics are located outside the metropolitan area.”

Said Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto:

“It is extremely regrettable that the games will be staged in a very limited manner in the face of the spread of novel coronavirus infections. I am very sorry for ticket holders and local residents who were looking forward to the games.”

A decision on whether to allow spectators for the Paralympic Games will be made after the Olympics conclude on 8 August.

The government action also impacts many other elements of life in the Tokyo area:

“Major commercial facilities including department stores will also be asked to close by 8 p.m. Attendance at large events such as sports games and concerts will be capped at 5,000 people or 50 percent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is fewer.”

Observed: That the Tokyo Games have become a political issue rather than strictly a medical one is demonstrated by allowing up to 5,000 spectators at sporting events such as Nippon Professional Baseball games or J-League football matches, but banning all Olympic spectators in the prefectures in and around Tokyo.

The worriers won the day and the Games will go on without spectators other than possibly at some outlying venues. Japan’s infection rate is low compared with other countries, but too high for a country which prides itself on being well organized.

These will be issues to be resolved in the national elections coming in the fall in Japan. But for the athletes coming to Japan to compete, the experience will be difficult. Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov told TASS:

“Our vanguard is already there and has informed us about the strict measures regarding personal movement. Almost all of the safety measures are already in place and all surveillance cameras are operating.

“Any person leaving the territory of the so-called ‘bubble’ is immediately approached by a special service staff requesting that he or she return back to the original premises. I want to call on everyone and all athletes to follow all of the previously issued directives.”

Or else.

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