Tokyo Olympics Spectators: What Will the Games Look Like Without a Crowd?

There will be no spectators allowed at Olympic venues in Tokyo amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Medal ceremonies will be held with various restrictions in place and medalists will put on their own medals, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

The Tokyo Olympics will be held amid a state of emergency in the Japanese capital, which began on July 12 and is in effect through August 22, due to rising COVID-19 infections.

In a statement on July 8, the IOC said: "No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games. Under this policy, in areas where emergency measures are not in force, local government authorities will meet and decide specific measures in consultation with the local governors based on the situation in each area."

It is unknown exactly what the venues will look like in the absence of crowds, whether the seats will remain empty or possibly feature cardboard cut-outs of people (as seen at some previous sporting events held amid the ongoing pandemic) or have some other setup.

Newsweek has contacted the IOC and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games for comment.

The Associated Press reported the spectator ban applies to both indoor and outdoor venues in Tokyo as well as three surrounding prefectures, which include Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba.

Reuters reported the governor of the Fukushima prefecture announced on July 10 that spectators would also be banned at its Olympic events, reversing a previous decision to allow a limited number of fans.

According to AP, on July 6 the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said that roadside viewing of the race walks or marathons in the northern city of Sapporo will also be banned.

The decision to ban spectators was announced following a meeting of five Olympic and Japanese government groups managing the Games. Spectators from abroad were banned months earlier.

CNN reported Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said at the time: "A very heavy judgement was made" and they have "no choice but to hold the Games in a limited way" due to the pandemic.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government website states: "The increase rate of new positive cases continues to rise and the virus is spreading at a rapid pace" and "there is a high risk of a resurgence of the virus."

The latest emergency declaration marked the fourth time it was issued since the outbreak began in the country in 2020.

The Olympics rings logo seen in Japan.
The Olympic rings displayed near the National Stadium, the main venue for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in Japan, pictured on July 7. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images

Medal Ceremony Restrictions

In a statement Thursday, the IOC announced "significant changes" to the procedures for medal ceremonies, which will be held at the competition venues.

The IOC stated all athletes, medal presenters and volunteers are required to wear a face covering at all times during the ceremonies.

All medal presenters must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Only one member of the IOC and one representative from the International Federation will be present at each medal ceremony, the IOC said.

Additional podiums will be placed between the gold, silver and bronze medalists to ensure social distancing between the athletes.

The Tokyo Olympics equestrian park in 2021.
A technician working in the stadium at the Tokyo Olympics equestrian park on July 14 in Tokyo, Japan. Carl Court/Getty Images

Athletes Will Put on Own Medals

At a press conference Wednesday, IOC president Thomas Bach stated: "The medals will not be given around the neck.

"They will be presented to the athlete on a tray, and then the athlete will take the medal him or herself." he said.

The IOC statement Thursday explained: "The presenters will be waiting for the athletes on the field of play, and will not be part of the procession with the athletes.

"Trays with medals and gifts (a flower bouquet and a small Tokyo 2020 mascot) will be placed on a table or a stand," the IOC said.

These trays will be carried by the presenters from the tables/stands to the athletes.

Having no contact with the presenters, the medalists will then take the medals and gifts from the trays.

The medalists will remain on their own podium throughout the medal ceremony. No group photos will be taken from the gold medal podium, the IOC said.

Joggers near Tokyo's Komazawa Olympic Park Stadium.
People jogging past the Komazawa Olympic Park Stadium in Tokyo, one of the venues for the 1964 Olympic Games in Japan, pictured on July 12. Roadside viewing of the race walks or marathons in the northern city of Sapporo will also be banned at this year's Olympic Games. Carl Court/Getty Images

Who Is Allowed at the Olympic Venues?

AP reported on July 8 that some dignitaries, sponsors, officials from the IOC and others were expected to be allowed to attend the opening ceremony of the Games.

However, Hashimoto said: "We will have to review the situation about the dignitaries and stakeholders" attending the opening ceremony, according to AP.

Asked whether stakeholders will be allowed to attend the Tokyo venues, CNN reported Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said IOC officials and executives from the National Olympic Committee (NOC) will have access to the venues as they are not considered spectators and will have "roles to play during the Games."

According to AP, around 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to arrive in Tokyo for the Games. Tens of thousands of coaches, administrators, broadcasters, and members of the press will also be arriving in the Japanese capital.