It is a new blow for the “Games of the pandemic”: the Olympic Games will be held from July 23 to August 8 behind closed doors at the sites of Tokyo, due to the resurgence of the coronavirus in the Japanese capital, announced Thursday the Minister of the Olympics, Tamayo Marukawa.
“We have agreed that there will be no spectators at the venues in Tokyo“said Ms. Marukawa after a meeting with all stakeholders in the Olympics, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Most of the Olympic venues are located in the Japanese capital, but some events take place in other departments, which will also take “concrete measures“in conjunction with the organizers, added Ms. Marukawa.
Nothing was spared at the Tokyo Olympics: from their postponement of one year last year to the renunciation in March of this year to spectators coming from abroad, a decision unprecedented in the history of the Olympics there too.
This announcement comes a few hours after the decision of the Japanese government to reinstate a state of health emergency in Tokyo from Monday until August 22, a device that will thus encompass the entire period of the Olympics, while the city is currently listing around 900 cases of Covid-19 per day.
– “Extremely regrettable” –
“I think we can organize Games safely thanks to these measures“, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said earlier today.
“We need to step up measures to prevent infections from spreading again across Japan, given the impact of the new variants“, added Mr. Suga, while the Delta variant, more contagious, now represents about 30% of cases in Japan.
“We will support all measures that make the Olympic and Paralympic Games safe for the Japanese and for the participants.“, also explained at the beginning of the evening the president of the IOC Thomas Bach, arrived Thursday in Japan but obliged to observe a quarantine of three days.
The president of Tokyo-2020, Seiko Hashimoto, for her part affirmed that “the Tokyo Olympics were to be a rare opportunity to feel the power of sport in stadiums full of supporters. But we are facing an expansion of coronavirus cases. It is extremely regrettable that we are forced to organize this event in such a limited way.“
In Japan, state of emergency measures are much less stringent than lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, limiting the sale of alcohol and forcing bars and restaurants to close earlier. There are also restrictions on the number of spectators at cultural and sporting events.
– Draconian measures –
Last month, the organizers of the Olympics decided to allow local spectators to 50% of the capacity of a site, with a ceiling of 10,000 people. But they had predicted that these restrictions could be tightened, until a closed door, if the health situation worsens again in Japan.
Some 11,000 athletes are expected in Tokyo, where draconian anti-Covid measures have been imposed on all participants.
While the Japanese archipelago has been relatively spared so far by the Covid-19 pandemic, with around 14,900 officially recorded deaths since early 2020, its vaccination program only accelerated from May.
Just over 15% of the population has been fully vaccinated so far, and experts fear the Delta variant may cause a new wave that could overwhelm hospitals in Japan, which has already seen three states of emergency since l ‘last year.
The Olympic torch relay, which has been banned on public roads in most of Japan, will also take place behind closed doors from Friday in the capital, where very limited ceremonies are scheduled until the Games instead. .
Tuesday, the organizers of the Olympics had already announced that they would ask the public to “abstain” from attending the marathon and walking events, organized in Sapporo (northern Japan).