The Japanese government has decided to exclude overseas spectators from attending this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, officials have told Kyodo.

The sources say the government has concluded that welcoming fans from abroad is not feasible given public concern over the coronavirus and the fact that more contagious variants have been detected in many countries. The opening ceremony of the torch relay will be held without any spectators at all.

As for athletes, they are being encouraged to get COVID-19 shots ahead of the games, though it will not be compulsory, IOC Vice President John Coates said last month. That’s just as well for athletes such as Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, who has said he’d rather miss Tokyo 2020 than get a jab.

Japan will ban foreign fans from Olympics | REUTERS
Japan will ban foreign fans from Olympics | REUTERS

The absence of spectators from overseas means one less thing to worry about for Seiko Hashimoto, the new Olympic organizing panel chief, although she and her 3,500 committee members still must grapple with a range of headaches, low public support for the games, a health crisis and the aftermath of a sexism scandal.

And it’s not just the Japanese public that has little appetite for the games, with a majority of those polled in a six-nation survey also wanting to see Tokyo 2020 delayed or canceled — except in one country, where opinion was split.

But one nation not among those polled may matter more than all of the rest as far as Japan is concerned: China, which is gearing up to host the Beijing Winter Olympics in a year’s time. As Bloomberg reports, Japan’s fear of losing face against its regional rival has upped the ante for the Summer Games.