Overseas spectators will be banned from attending this summer’s Tokyo Olympic Games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) chief Andrew Parsons respected Tokyo’s decision when considering the safety of Games participants and Japanese people, organising committee president Seiko Hashimoto said on Saturday.
“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,” Mr Bach said.
Mr Bach had warned at the opening of a five-party meeting with the IPC, Tokyo organisers, the Japanese government and Tokyo’s city government that decisions could be taken “which may need sacrifice from everybody.”
It is “very unfortunate” not to welcome overseas spectators, Mr Hashimoto said after the meeting.
The Tokyo Games were postponed from last year due to the pandemic and are due to open on July 23.
The torch relay is to start on March 25 in Fukushima amid a strict hygiene protocol.
The committee will refund overseas fans who have already purchased tickets with a total of 630,000 tickets having already been sold, according to committee chief executive Toshiro Muto.
The decision comes amid fears of a resurgence of new infections and increasing cases of new strains of the coronavirus in Japan.
“Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first,” said Mr Bach.
“I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly.
“Together with them, the IOC’s top priority was, is and remains to organise safe Olympic and Paralympic Games for everyone: all the participants and, of course, our gracious hosts, the Japanese people.”
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga decided to end a coronavirus state of emergency for Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures on Sunday, which has been in place since early January.
The number of new daily cases has fallen sharply since January but Tokyo has reported more than 300 new infections for the fifth straight day.
Japan has so far avoided a coronavirus outbreak on the scale seen in Europe and the United States, with a total of about 456,000 known infections and more than 8,800 COVID 19-related deaths, according to a tally by broadcaster NHK.