Sports TravelThe much-anticipated event will go ahead this summer, but overseas spectators are likely to face a ban.

What's an Olympics without foreign fans?

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The decision is due to public concern about Covid-19 and further detection of more contagious variants in other countries, said government sources.
The decision is due to public concern about Covid-19 and further detection of more contagious variants in other countries, said government sources. Photo Credit: Getty Images/tawatchaiprakobkit

After earlier speculation that Japan is calling off the Tokyo Olympics, Kyodo News has reported on 9 March that the event will go on — but without spectators, and with the opening ceremony taking place behind closed doors.

"The organising committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic," Kyodo reported, quoting officials with knowledge of the matter.

Two government sources shared the same update with news agency Reuters the same week, citing the decision is due to public concern about Covid-19 and further detection of more contagious variants in countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam and China.

An official announcement on the issue of overseas spectators is expected by end this month, according to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

While the number of Covid-19 cases are declining, Japan recently extended its state of emergency by two weeks until 21 March for the greater Tokyo area, covering Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. The declaration had been in place since 8 January.

When the declaration lifts, Japan might also be putting a cap of 2,000 daily arrivals — including those involved in the Olympics and returning Japanese nationals, according to a Nikkei report citing people familiar with the matter. The country banned nearly all new international arrivals since late December 2020.

Olympics test events are expected to start in April.

A December survey showed that 77% of its respondents are against allowing overseas spectators, with just 18% in favour.

Game dates remain from 23 July to 8 August for the Olympics, and 24 August to 5 September for the Paralympics.

According to the official Tokyo 2020 Olympics site, the traditional torch relay will kick off from Fukushima on 25 March, going through the planned public roads across Tochigi, Gunma, Nagano, Gifu, Aichi, Mie, Wakayama, Nara and Osaka.

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