D.he Olympic Games in Tokyo will take place without foreign spectators. This Saturday the Japanese organizers announced this in an online conference to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Paralympic Committee. It is very unlikely that in view of the current pandemic situation, people from abroad will be guaranteed to enter Japan this summer, according to a press release distributed by the local organizing committee. Foreign sports fans who have already bought tickets will get their money back. Around a million tickets are said to have already been sold to foreign fans.
Correspondent for business and politics in Japan, based in Tokyo.
The President of the IOC, Thomas Bach, had asked for understanding for the necessary sacrifices that everyone would have to make before the decision was made. “It’s no secret that these games will be different,” said International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons. According to the previous planning, the organizers want to decide by April how many spectators will be allowed to watch the competitions in the stadiums. It is expected that tens of thousands of people will travel to the games even without foreign sports tourists. This includes athletes, officials and media representatives.
Economically a major blow
The Olympic torch relay will begin next week in Naraha, near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, and will last 121 days until the Olympic Games across Japan. The Olympic flame had already reached Japan last year when the games were postponed to this year due to the Covid pandemic. Thereafter, the flame was stored in Japan and kept burning. The sports festival is slated to begin in Tokyo on July 23.
The virus emergency imposed by the government ends in the capital Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures on Sunday. The number of new infections has fallen significantly compared to the turn of the year and the medical situation has eased after more hospital beds were made available for Covid patients. The concern in Japan, however, is that more and more virus variants are being introduced into the country. Infections with the British, South African and Brazilian virus strains have already been found. A majority of the population rejects the entry of sports tourists after surveys.
Although the government has ended the virus emergency, the borders remain closed to foreigners who do not live in Japan, as they have been since mid-January. There are only a few exceptions. There are also plans to limit the number of people entering the country to 2000 per day. It is unclear when the travel restrictions will be lifted.
The decision against foreign tourists makes it easier for sports fans abroad and hoteliers in Japan to plan for the summer. This is also a great relief for the organizers. Only with Japanese sports fans as guests will it be easier to enforce safety precautions against the Covid pandemic.
Economically, however, the renouncement of sports journalists and fans from abroad is a heavy blow for Japan. Hopes rested that hundreds of thousands of consumer-loving tourists would give the economy a helpful boost after the Covid recession. New financial questions arise for the organizers of the games as well. As of December, the organizing committee expected ticket sales to generate the equivalent of about $ 800 million. That corresponds to about twelve percent of the total budget. At previous Olympics, around 70 to 80 percent of tickets were typically sold locally.
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