Olympics reduced to TV-only event after Japan bans spectators amid COVID-19 emergency
Japanese officials recently declared a state of emergency due to the danger posed by the Delta variant.
Every time the Olympics arrive, tourists and sports fans flock to the host city to witness the international sports competitions live, while millions more people around the globe watch the games on TV. This year, though, the only way to watch the summer Olympics will be on TV as spectators have been banned as Japan is under a COVID-19 state of emergency.
The 32nd Olympic Games were originally supposed to take place in Tokyo last year, but understandably got delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, vaccines are becoming available around the world, but that doesn't mean the danger has passed. With new, more contagious strains of the disease like the Delta variant on the loose, Tokyo has recently declared a state of emergency. The safety measures that a state of emergency entails are not compatible with in-person audiences for the Olympic contests.
After meeting with International Olympic Committee officials on Thursday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike confirmed that fans will be banned from the Olympics, according to the Associated Press. Previously, fans from abroad were already banned, but now all spectators are barred from the games — at both indoor and outdoor venues.
"Many people were looking forward to watching the games at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home," Koike said after the meeting.
The state of emergency is set to begin Monday and would run through Aug. 22. The Olympics are currently slated to open on July 23 and run through Aug. 8, meaning they will be held entirely under emergency measures.
"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," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.
Other Japanese politicians suggest there still might be other options, though time is running out to make big decisions.
"It's not too late. Cancel or postpone it," said Yukio Edano, the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party to Suga's Liberal Democratic Party.