TOKYO: Overseas fans will be barred from this year's pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics because of ongoing coronavirus concerns, organisers announced Saturday (Mar 20).
"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 2020 organising body said in a statement.
The International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee "fully respect and accept this conclusion", the statement added.
Around 600,000 tickets for the Games and another 30,000 for the Paralympics will be refunded, the chief executive of the organising committee said.
Speaking in a news conference on Saturday, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said the organising committee would not be announcing how much the refunds would cost.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have been pushed back a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While overseas spectators will now be barred, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said in February the Games should still have fans in the stands.
While the outbreak has chilled public opinion toward the event, both organisers and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have vowed to press ahead with the Games.
The decision on international spectators will "ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public," Tokyo 2020 organisers said in a statement following five-way talks that included the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, and the Tokyo governor.
"People who are involved in the Olympics in some way may be allowed to enter the country, whereas regular visitors will not be able to," Tokyo 2020's Muto said.
He said costs for hotel cancellations would not be covered. Organisers may also consider cutting the number of staff members who will participate in the Games.
The Games are scheduled for Jul 23 to Aug 8, and the Paralympics from Aug 24 to Sep 5.
Media polls have shown that a majority of the Japanese public are wary about letting in international spectators to watch the Games as the country grapples with the tail-end of a third wave of the pandemic.
A stripped-down Games means the government will not get the tourism boom it had long counted on. Japan has grown increasingly reliant on foreign tourists, particularly from Asia, to bolster its weak domestic economy.
Like other countries, it has seen tourism unravel with the pandemic and its hotels and restaurants have been hit hard.
Saturday's decision did not cover local spectators. Muto said organisers will decide next month on caps for spectators in venues.
"It's very unfortunate," Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said of the decision on international spectators, speaking to reporters after the meeting.
But she added that the conclusion was "unavoidable" given that the main priority for holding a successful Games would be the health of the athletes and the Japanese public.
Kyodo news service earlier reported that organisers were leaning towards barring overseas volunteers from helping at the Games.
Sources told Reuters earlier this month that the Japanese government had concluded it will not be able to allow spectators from abroad.