Fans barred from Summer Olympics amid COVID spike in Tokyo

If you thought the days of seeing empty stands at sporting events were in the rearview mirror, think again.

It was announced Thursday there will be no fans in attendance at the Summer Olympics, which are set to kick off in Tokyo later this month.

The announcement coincides with Tokyo issuing a new state of emergency due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases. Tokyo reported 920 new infections on Wednesday alone, “the highest daily caseload since the middle of May,” CNN reported.

Restrictions will go into place July 12 through Aug. 22, encompassing the entirety of the Olympic Games.

“The priority will be to determine safe and secure Games,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said at a news conference. “We wanted (to have a) full stadium so community people could get involved in welcoming the athletes so we could have a full presentation of the power of sports… However, now faced with COVID-19 we have no other choice but to hold the Games in a limited way.”

There has been plenty of scrutiny over the last few months with regard to the powers that be in Tokyo opening the city for the Olympics amid COVID concerns from the public. There was even a public disagreement between Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Emperor Naruhito regarding visiting athletes and fans coming into the country.

Suga originally dismissed concerns about the virus spreading in the wake of the Tokyo Games. With the current spike in COVID cases, however, he has changed his tune.

“The number of infected cases in the area including Tokyo has been increasing since the end of last month,” Suga said. “The number of severe cases and bed occupancy rate continues to be on the low level, but considering the impact of variants, we need to enhance countermeasures so that the infection will not spread nationwide.”

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to start July 23.

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