Olympics may go without fans after Japan declares COVID emergency

Fans were expected to be excluded from all events in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, the Asahi newspaper said, citing unidentified officials, just as the government announced it would place the city under a state of emergency. International Olympic Committee Chief Thomas Bach landed in Tokyo Thursday and was scheduled to meet with organizers and Japanese government representatives to make the official decision.

The state of emergency was unlikely to trigger a cancellation of the games, set to run from July 23 to Aug. 8, with officials from the organizing committee having said previously that they’re prepared to hold events without spectators if necessary. Still, empty stadiums would be added to scandals, cost over-runs, delays and virus controls in undermining the original purpose of the event in allowing a modernized Japan to take the global spotlight.

“Without spectators, there’ll be no domestic travel, no visitors from the regions, and all the related restaurant and travel demand will also disappear,” said economist Atsushi Takeda at Itochu Research Institute. Overseas spectators have already been excluded from the games.