Japan to ban overseas fans from Tokyo Olympics - reports

Foreign spectators will also be kept away from Paralympics according to reports in Japan

Japan has decided to stage this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to concern among the Japanese public about Covid-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled for July 23rd to August 8th and the Paralympics from August 24th to September 5th.

Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries.

The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without spectators.

"The organising committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic," Kyodo said, quoting the officials.

Representatives of Tokyo 2020 were not immediately available for comment.

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto had said she wanted a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25th.

“We would really like people from around the world to come to a full stadium, but unless we are prepared to accept them and the medical situation in Japan is perfect, it will cause a great deal of trouble also to visitors from overseas,” Kyodo quoted Hashimoto as telling reporters last week.

The Japanese government and the games organising committee were due to hold a remote meeting with the International Olympic Committee later this month to make a formal decision on overseas visitors.

While coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.

Japan has recorded more than 441,200 cases since the start of the pandemic, with the death toll at more than 8,300.