Today, Japanese officials confirmed that outside spectators won’t be able to turn up to watch the world’s biggest sporting event this year. Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, called it “an unavoidable decision.”
“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,” read a statement released by top organizers on Saturday. “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 2020 Summer Olympics were meant to be convened last year, of course—it’s right there in the name. And you know the rest of that story: The pandemic got in the way, and the games were left in disarray. Organizers are now forging ahead with plans to hold it this July, open to local (inoculated) sports fans following strict protocols. They now need to sort out how to refund tickets snapped up by masses of overseas spectators, according to the New York Times:
Overseas buyers purchased 600,000 tickets to Olympic events, as well as 30,000 tickets to the Paralympic Games starting in August, organizers said. The Paralympics will also bar spectators from abroad. In bidding for the Games, the Tokyo organizers said that 7.8 million tickets would be made available. Typically, about 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets go to international spectators.
The idea of holding the Games at all this year remains deeply unpopular amongst the Japanese public, according to the Times: Nearly 80 percent want them canceled or postponed.