Big names such as Simone Biles, Damian Lillard, and Bryson DeChambeau will show face at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but fans won’t get the chance. Earlier today, Japanese officials declared a state of emergency for Tokyo that runs through the Games. This effectively bars spectators from Olympic venues in the city.
“Many people were looking forward to watching at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home,” said Toyko Governor Yuriko Koike.
A different kind of Olympic spirit
With more than 14,800 deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t affect Japan as strongly as other countries, But a new surge in infections along with the more contagious Delta variant of the virus caused officials to act.
“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,” said Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
In addition to the Delta variant, there were concerns about the country’s low vaccination rate. In Japan, 15 percent of residents are fully vaccinated versus 45 percent in the U.S. Recent polls show that a large majority of Japanese citizens prefer to cancel or further postpone the Games. As of yesterday, two Olympic athletes and two workers have tested positive for COVID-19.
This is not the first setback that Tokyo 2020 organizers have experienced. In March, officials made a decision to bar overseas spectators. In addition, the Olympic torch run hasn’t been a run at all in Japan. Instead, it’s been a series of ceremonies that aren’t open to the public. And, of course, the 2020 Summer Olympics didn’t occur in 2020. Due to the pandemic, the start of the Olympics was postponed until July 23, 2021.
There are a few events outside of Tokyo, such as the marathon, that could still have fans. However, organizers say they would ask spectators not to cheer for runners. It seems that athletes at the Tokyo Olympics will be used to that silence.