A guard in front of a stadium in Tokyo, Thursday, July 8, 2021.

Two weeks before the opening of the Olympic Games (JO), the organizers announced that there would be “No spectators” at the sites of the tests in Tokyo, due to the resurgence of cases of Covid-19, according to the Japanese Minister of the Olympics, Tamayo Marukawa. “We have agreed that there is no [aurait] no spectators in the sites in Tokyo ”, said Ms. Marukawa, Thursday July 8, after a meeting with all stakeholders in the Olympics, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Most of the venues where the Olympic Games will take place are located in the Japanese capital. Competitions to be held in three neighboring departments (Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa) will also be closed to the public, organizers said later. Events planned in other departments, including Fukushima and Miyagi, in the northeast of the archipelago, or Shizuoka, in the Center, will accept spectators, but on a limited basis.

“We will support all measures that allow the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be safe for the Japanese and for the participants”, also explained in the early evening the President of the IOC, Thomas Bach, arrived Thursday in Japan but forced to observe a period of isolation of three days.


Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said that “The Tokyo Olympics were to be a rare opportunity to feel the power of sport in stadiums full of supporters”. “But we are facing an expansion of coronavirus cases. It is extremely regrettable that we are forced to organize this event in such a limited way ”, she lamented.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said the choice was a “Heartbreaking”, while calling on the public to follow the Games at home, “In a safe way”. A decision on the public at the Paralympic Games (August 24-September 5) will be taken after the Olympics, she said.

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The Japanese Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, had earlier announced a new state of health emergency in Tokyo, in the face of the increase in Covid-19 cases. This state of emergency will last until August 22, and will therefore cover the entire period of the Olympics, which will be held from July 23 to August 8. In Japan, health emergency measures are much less stringent than lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, limiting the sale of alcohol and forcing bars and restaurants to close earlier.

“In many regions, the number of new cases [de Covid-19] decreased, but it continues to increase since the end of last month in the Greater Tokyo area ”, justified the Japanese Prime Minister by announcing the government decision, which the media had anticipated on Wednesday. “We must step up measures to prevent infections from spreading again throughout Japan, given the impact of the new variants”Mr Suga added. The more infectious Delta variant now accounts for around 30% of cases in Japan.

New wave

While the archipelago has been relatively spared so far by the Covid-19 pandemic, with around 14,900 deaths from the disease officially recorded since the start of 2020, its vaccination program has progressed very slowly. The proportion of Japanese vaccinated only slightly exceeds 15%, and experts fear that the Delta variant may cause a new wave likely to overwhelm hospitals in the archipelago, which has experienced several health emergencies since 2020.

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In March, the organizers had already banned the arrival of foreign visitors – a first in Olympic history – and in June, they had set a ceiling of 10,000 local spectators or 50% of the capacity of a site, according to the figure. the lowest. But the organizers had warned that this number could be further reduced and that the Games could be held behind closed doors if the health situation worsened.

The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, arrived in Japan on Thursday, where he was participating in a meeting on the spectator issue with the local organizing committee, representatives of the Japanese government and the Tokyo municipality. The presence or not of an audience was a puzzle for the ticket office. A draw supposed to fix a reduced number of spectators has continued to be postponed and was to be held on Saturday. It will ultimately not take place.

The Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee is working to create enthusiasm for these pandemic-plagued Games. But the Olympic torch relay, which has been banned on public roads in most of Japan, will also take place behind closed doors from Friday in the capital, where limited ceremonies are scheduled until the Games. On Tuesday, the organizers also announced that they would ask the public to “Abstain” to attend the marathon and the walking events in Sapporo (northern Japan).

Polls show that most Japanese would prefer the Games to be postponed again or simply canceled, although opposition to the Olympics has weakened in recent weeks. Some 11,000 athletes are expected in Tokyo, where draconian measures against Covid-19 have been imposed by the organizers.

Le Monde with AFP and Reuters

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