Updated Jul 8, 2021 - Health

Olympics to be held without spectators as Tokyo enters state of emergency

 Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking to reporters in Tokyo on July 7.
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaking to reporters in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: STR/Jiji Press/AFP via Getty Images

Summer Olympics events in the Tokyo area will be held without spectators, after Japan declared a state of emergency in the capital following a surge in COVID-19 cases, Japan's Olympics minister announced Thursday.

Why it matters: It's another huge blow to the spectacle and finances of the delayed and scaled-back Olympics, just two weeks ahead of the opening ceremony.

The big picture: Organizers had planned to allow venues to be filled up to 50% capacity, with a maximum of 10,000 Japanese spectators and no overseas fans. A surge in COVID-19 cases and the low rate of vaccinations forced them to reconsider.

  • Tokyo's fourth coronavirus state of emergency will run from this Monday, July 12 until Aug. 22, Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said. Bars and restaurants will be requested to suspend alcohol sales under the measures.
  • The Tokyo Games are due to begin with the opening ceremony on July 23.

What they're saying: "Taking into consideration the impact of the Delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures," Suga said, per AP.

Flashback: International Olympic Committee vice president John Coates said in May that the Tokyo Olympics will proceed even if the city or other parts of Japan are under a COVID-19 state of emergency.

By the numbers: Tokyo reported 920 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which was the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13, according to ESPN.

Go deeper ... Axios Today podcast: Controversy ahead of the Olympics

Editor's note: This article has been updated with the decision that the Olympics will be held without spectators.

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