The unprecedented ban on overseas fans announced Saturday will make the Tokyo Olympics the first ever to take place without spectators from around the world, as organizers scale back their ambitions for the event due to the lingering coronavirus pandemic.

Developers have poured hundreds of billions of yen into shopping and dining complexes in Tokyo to serve an influx of foreign tourists that now won’t be coming. Shopping malls and restaurants will miss out on a business boom, dealing another blow to industries already on the ropes from the coronavirus.

But the show must go on. And Japan’s experience as one of the few countries in the world to consistently hold large, ticketed sporting events “with COVID-19” offers evidence that the games can indeed take place safely — even if the atmosphere will be somewhat different, writes Dan Orlowitz.

Overseas fans banned from Tokyo Olympics over COVID fears | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH
Overseas fans banned from Tokyo Olympics over COVID fears | AL JAZEERA ENGLISH

An Olympics under the dark cloud of COVID-19 may not be the experience athletes signed up for, but they are still eager to grab their chance to shine — whether there are fans there or not, they tell AFP-Jiji.

As for Olympic volunteers, mixed signals from the games’ organizers and a recent sexism scandal have left some would-be helpers lacking motivation, Reuters reports. Volunteers from overseas, for example, have been emailed detailed schedules by organizers, but then told to verify whether they can enter Japan at all given strict curbs on immigration.

Meanwhile, even with a raft of precautions in place to minimize the risk of infection, the Olympic torch relay has been hit by a number of high-profile withdrawals by those worried about spreading the virus — highlighting the challenges ahead for the full-blown games to come.