Tokyo Olympics Will Happen Under Japanese State of Emergency, Likely No Spectators

The Tokyo Olympics will happen under a state of emergency declared by Japan on Thursday, meaning the likelihood of spectators being allowed at the stadium will be slim, the Associated Press reported. The aim is to contain rising coronavirus infections in the capital.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the state of emergency will go into effect next Monday and last through August 22. The Olympics, which will open July 23 and run until August 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on August 24.

"Taking into consideration the impact of the Delta strain and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures," Suga said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Olympics to Happen Under State of Emergency
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks Thursday during a press conference on the new coronavirus state of emergency extending throughout the Tokyo Olympics. Nicolas Datiche/Getty Images

The extent of the ban, which comes just two weeks before the pandemic-postponed Olympics open, will be announced later on Thursday by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organizers.

Fans from aboard were banned several months ago, and these new measures announced by Suga could clear venues—indoor and outdoor—of any fans at all.

This emergency declaration made for a rude arrival in Japan for IOC President Thomas Bach, who landed in Tokyo on Thursday just hours before the new measures were announced. He is to spend three days in self-isolation at the five-star hotel that lodges IOC members.

Suga, who had long favored fans, hinted at a no-fan Olympics in announcing the state of emergency. "I have already said I won't hesitate to have no spectators," he added.

Just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC allowed venues to be filled to 50 percent of capacity, but crowds cannot exceed 10,000. The state of emergency has forced a last-minute turnaround, which was always an option if infections got worse.

"We will have to consider the option of no spectators," said Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa in opening remarks with the IOC and others as they went into meetings to discuss a ban on fans.

The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.

"How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue," Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said.

The present state of emergency ends Sunday. Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, up from 673 a week earlier. It's the 19th straight day that cases have topped the mark set seven days prior. New cases on Wednesday hit 920, the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.

The no-fan atmosphere could include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium, which is traditionally the most watched event during the Olympics.

The uptick in infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to pull the Olympic torch relay off capital streets, allowing it to run only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It's unclear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.

"The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it," Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, said.

He urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics, with summer vacations approaching.

Omi has repeatedly called for a ban on spectators and has said it's "abnormal" to hold the Olympics during a pandemic.

Separately, a government COVID-19 advisory panel met Wednesday and expressed concerns about the ongoing resurgence of the infections.

"Two-thirds of the infections in the capital region are from Tokyo, and our concern is the spread of the infections to neighboring areas," said Ryuji Wakita, director-general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement stalled the IOC's income flow. It gets almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose $3 billion to $4 billion if the Olympics were canceled.

About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters, and media also entering. The IOC says more than 80 percent of the residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.

Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15 percent of Japanese are fully vaccinated, still low compared with 47.4 percent in the United States and almost 50 percent in Britain.

Olympics to Happen Under State of Emergency
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach waves to the media upon his arrival Thursday in Tokyo. Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press