Spectators have just been banned from all Tokyo events at the Summer Olympic Games as Japan enters a state of emergency to cope with soaring cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19. The announcement comes only two weeks before the start of the games, which begin on July 23.
It’s a sudden reversal from a plan laid out just 18 days ago to fill venues at half capacity, permitting 10,000 spectators to watch the Olympic Games. The Organising Committee of the Olympic Games made the decision after Japan declared the state of emergency, which will last from July 12 to August 22.
The announcement is yet another setback for the Olympic Games, which were already postponed for an entire year due to the pandemic. Japan is struggling to rein in COVID-19 cases and doesn’t want Tokyo to be a vector for the new Delta variant, Reuters reported. While new cases are down from a peak in May, the country is still experiencing 1,500 new cases a day and only 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.
Japan officials are worried about the arrival of 11,000 athletes, along with thousands of support staff, journalists, and others needed to pull off the Olympic Games, which will last 16 days and hold 300 events across dozens of locations in and near Tokyo — including five sports that are new to the Summer Olympics, among them surfing and skateboarding.
Already, Japan had barred all foreign spectators from the Olympic Games, as well as banning alcohol from the venues. Spectators will be asked not to line up on streets to watch events like the Olympic triathlon, Reuters reported. However, a limited number of spectators will be allowed at venues outside the Tokyo metropolitan area.