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Tokyo Olympics: Spectators from overseas barred due to coronavirus pandemic risks

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Venue Tour

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 03: A general view of the new National Stadium prior to a media tour of Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues on July 03, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

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Overseas spectators will not be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The decision was announced after a Saturday meeting among the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the Japanese government.

“During the meeting, the IOC and IPC were informed ... about the conclusion of the Japanese parties not to allow entry into Japan for overseas spectators for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 due to the prevailing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a Tokyo 2020 statement. “Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas. In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The IOC and IPC respected and accepted the decision, issuing statements.

“We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes, who were planning to come to the Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a press release. “For this I am truly sorry. We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody. We have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that it will require sacrifices. But we have also said that the first principle is safety. Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first. I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly.”

IPC President Andrew Parsons said difficult decisions needed to be made to “ensure safe and secure Games.”

“It goes without saying that in an ideal world we would prefer to have international spectators at the Games, allowing families, friends and fans to cheer on their loved ones and all athletes,” Parsons said in a statement. “But at the moment we must acknowledge that due to the global pandemic we are not living in an ideal world.”

USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said “that safety has to be the priority” in a letter.

“Our next step is to engage with the IOC, IPC, TOCOG [Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee] and ANOC [Association of National Olympic Committees] to better understand what this decision means for all of us,” she wrote. “As we wait for further clarification and additional information, please know we will continue to advocate for opportunities for American fans to experience the Games in person, and will share additional updates as soon as we have them.”

Tickets purchased by overseas residents from the organizing committee will be refunded.

The Olympic Opening Ceremony is July 23. The Paralympic Opening Ceremony is Aug. 24.

The Olympic torch relay, halted last March as the Tokyo Games were postponed by one year, resumes Thursday.

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