Spectators to face Olympic ban as Tokyo declares coronavirus emergency
TOKYO — Organizers of the Olympic Games have agreed to hold events in Tokyo without spectators under a Covid-19 state of emergency, Japan’s Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa said on Thursday.
Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators at the Games would be the least risky option amid widespread public concern that the influx of tens of thousands of athletes and officials will fuel a fresh wave of infections.
The games run from July 23 to Aug. 8.
NBCUniversal, NBC News’ parent company, paid $7.5 billion to extend its U.S. Olympics media rights until 2032. NBCUniversal is the International Olympic Committee’s largest single source of income.
Organizers had previously banned international fans and set a cap on domestic spectators at 50 percent of capacity, up to 10,000 people per venue.
Supporters had been told to clap rather than cheer or sing. Plans for some public viewing sites have been canceled and companies, wary of public opposition, have been hesitant about advertising, adding to a subdued mood in the Japanese capital.
Japan has not suffered the kind of explosive Covid-19 outbreaks seen in many other countries but has had more than 810,000 cases and 14,900 deaths.
The imposition of a new state of emergency in Tokyo comes as the capital announced 896 new daily infections on Thursday, near highs last seen in mid-May.
A slow vaccine rollout has meant only a quarter of the population has had at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot.
Tokyo was previously under slightly less strict “quasi emergency” curbs. Under the new heightened restrictions, restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol, Nishimura said.
Areas neighboring Tokyo where some Olympic events are due to take place, such as Chiba and Kanagawa, are set to remain under the “quasi emergency” until Aug. 22.
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