Long-suspected precautionary measure is latest sad development for troubled event.

The Olympics are held up as the world’s greatest showcase of athletic prowess, but right now the Tokyo Olympics are limping towards their opening date of July 23, and enthusiasm for the event has now been dealt its latest blow with the announcement that spectators from overseas will not be admitted to the Olympic competition venues and opening/closing ceremonies.

The decision, jointly reached by the Tokyo Olympics Organizing Committee, IOC, Tokyo metropolitan government, and Japanese national government, is one that many suspected had been coming for some time. With Japan’s coronavirus infection rate lower than many other countries,’ and vaccinations having only recently begun in Japan, the possibility of inbound tourists triggering infection clusters has been a frequent point of discussion in conversations about what sort of health precautions need to be taken for staging an Olympics during the pandemic, and Organizing Committee president Seiko Hashimoto explained the priorities with:

“It is truly unfortunate [that spectator from overseas will not be admitted], but this is a resolution that was reached in order to hold the Games in a way that is safe and secure for the competing athletes and the people of Japan.”

To clarify, by “people of Japan” Hashimoto is referring to residents of Japan, not necessarily Japanese citizens or people of Japanese ethnicity, as foreign residents of the country are not barred from attending Tokyo Olympic events.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike also expressed her sorrow while calling the decision “unavoidable.” “As the host city, this was an opportunity for people from around the world to directly experience and enjoy the attractions and culture of Tokyo alongside our local population, and it is very unfortunate that it has come to this.”

The no-overseas-spectators ban also affects the Tokyo Paralympics, which are slated to open on August 24, one month after the Olympics. However, the bans themselves may end up being redundant, as Japan is still closed to international tourist travel, and may not reopen by the time the Games are scheduled to begin. In announcing the admission ban officials cited not only infection concerns, but also an inability to guarantee easy entry into/departure from Japan for tourists.

Trying to find some sort of silver lining, Koike said “I think people from all over the world interacting with each other via the Internet may become a new aspect of the Olympics and Paralympics” and expressed her hope that through watching the completions remotely there can still be a sense of shared experience and emotional connection among fans. Still, the opportunity for fans from other countries to interact directly with the everyday people of Tokyo being lost is a sad, if necessary, development.

Source: NHK News Web
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