After weeks and months of uncertainty, the Tokyo Olympic Committee finally announced on Saturday that international spectators will not be permitted to enter Japan during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The decision was made during an online meeting between the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the International Paralympic Committee and local organizers.
According to a news release from ESPN, officials decided the risk was too great to permit ticket holders from overseas to enter the country during the pandemic. Approximately 8,800 people in Japan have died as a result of COVID-19, and Japan has controlled the virus better than many other countries. For this reason, the Japanese public has been strongly opposed to allowing fans from overseas, and several surveys have shown that up to 80 per cent of the country’s citizens are against hosting the Games at all.
Around 600,000 tickets have already been sold to people living outside Japan, and while they have been promised refunds, so-called authorized ticket resellers that handle sales outside Japan will be primarily responsible for making this happen. These resellers typically charge up to 20 per cent above the ticket price, and it remains unclear whether these fees will be refunded.
“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 organizing committee said in a statement.
Organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto echoed the committee’s statement, calling the decision “very disappointing” and “regrettable,” while IOC president Thomas Bach added they “have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody.” Toshiro Muto, CEO of the organizing committee, also stated that international volunteers will be dealt with in the same manner.
There have been about 4.45 million tickets sold to residents of Japan, and the capacity at venues is expected to be announced next month.