Mar 20, 2021 - World

Overseas spectators banned from Tokyo Olympics over COVID fears

Illustration of virus cells in the shape of Olympic rings

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Spectators from overseas will not be permitted to attend the Summer Olymipics in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee and local organizers announced Saturday.

Why it matters: The decision highlights "the realities of COVID-19 even as [the organizers] forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event," the New York Times writes.

What they're saying: "Currently, the COVID-19 situation in Japan and many other countries around the world is still very challenging and a number of variant strains have emerged, whilst international travel remains severely restricted globally," Tokyo organizers said.

  • "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."
  • "This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public."
  • Of note: Athletes are not required to be vaccinated, but many of them likely will be, per AP.
    • The president of the IOC announced earlier this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations to Olympic and Paralympic competitors who required one ahead of the Games.

The big picture: The Tokyo organizing committee had expected $800 million income from ticket sales. The Japanese government will have to make up for lost income, AP reports.

  • While organizers said that spectators will be refunded, this ultimately will be decided by resellers that handle sales outside of Japan. "These dealers charge fees of up to 20% above the ticket price. It is not clear if the fees will be refunded," AP writes.
Go deeper