Following weeks of speculation, the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government announced Saturday that spectators traveling from overseas would be barred from attending the Tokyo Olympics, currently scheduled to begin July 23rd.
“Currently, the COVID-19 situation in Japan and many other countries around the world is still very challenging and a number of variant strains have emerged, whilst international travel remains severely restricted globally. Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.
“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The Tokyo Olympics — which Japan has so far officially spent $15.4 billion on, ESPN reports — was scheduled for Summer 2020 but postponed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the New York Times, 10 to 20 percent of tickets to Olympics events were reserved for international fans; while those tickets could be redistributed to local spectators, the vast majority of Japanese citizens will not be vaccinated by the scheduled start of the Tokyo Olympics in July due to a slow rollout.
Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko added, “In many ways the Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different to any previous Games. However, the essential of the Games will remain unchanged, as athletes give their utmost and inspire the world with transcendent performances. We are currently working on specific plans to share support remotely from around the world and help bring people together in ways suited to our current times. Even if you are no longer able to come to Japan this summer, we hope very much that you will continue to support the Tokyo 2020 Games.”
Another issue facing organizers is the actual refunding of tickets purchased by international fans, many of whom paid exorbitant service fees — sometimes upwards of 20 percent — that now might not be repaid, one ticketing agency told the New York Times.
“We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes, who were planning to come to the Games. For this I am truly sorry,” IOC President Thomas Bach added in a statement.
“Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first. I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the side of our Japanese partners and friends, without any kind of reservation, to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 a great success.”