The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and local organizers of the Tokyo Olympics confirmed Saturday that fans from other countries will not be allowed to attend the summer games in person due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“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 Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.
The committee added that the decision, which was announced following an online meeting between the IOC, government officials and local organizers, will “further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public.”
The ban on foreign spectators was widely expected, with an official telling Japan’s Kyodo news agency earlier this month that officials had largely reached an agreement on the decision but expected to hold off making an official announcement until after further analysis on the state of coronavirus infections and safety advice from health experts.
The games, which are scheduled to begin on July 23, have been clouded by uncertainty as the continuation of coronavirus infections across the globe, including more transmissible variants of the virus, have fueled health and safety concerns.
The Tokyo Olympics was initially slated to occur last year, though the events were postponed due to the pandemic, prompting billions of dollars in losses.
The Associated Press reported Saturday that roughly 1 million tickets for the games have been sold to fans outside of Japan, with officials explaining that refunds will be organized through Authorized Ticket Resellers.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, noted that event planners could not further delay a decision on overseas spectators, noting fans “have to secure accommodations and flights.”
“So we have to decide early otherwise we will cause a lot of inconvenience from them,” she explained, according to the AP. “I know this is a very tough issue.”
IOC President Thomas Bach said the ban on foreign spectators was a “difficult decision,” but added that in order for the games to occur amid the pandemic, “We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody.”
According to the AP, Japan has said that it is spending about $15.4 billion on the Olympics, though several government audits say that the events could actually cost the country twice as much, with increased financial burdens now expected with the loss in foreign ticket sales.