The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee will bar spectators from abroad from attending the summer games to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Olympic officials announced on Saturday.
The decision was announced during an online meeting of the committee, the Japanese government, the Tokyo government, the Paralympic Committee and local organizers, according to AP and other news sources.
“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 Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the Tokyo organizing committee said in a statement.
The organizers said 600,000 tickets have been sold to individuals residing outside of Japan. Refunds are planned but final decisions on how refunds will be handled will be determined by ticket sellers outside Japan.
Organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto was quoted by AP as saying the organizers were not responsible for money lost on flights or hotel reservations because the reservations did not involve “any contract arrangement with Tokyo.”
In late March organizers of the Tokyo Olympics announced new dates for the Games in summer 2021 — almost exactly one year after this year’s event was scheduled to take place until the coronavirus pandemic uprooted plans.
With 8,800 deaths to COVID-19 reported in Japan, 80% of its citizens are leery about hosting the Olympics in general, with about the same percentage opposed to allowing fans from overseas into the country to attend.
The loss of income from ticket sales will take a particularly hard hit on local businesses, which an organizing committee estimated to be around $800 million. Organizing the Olympics is costing Japan $15.4 billion – all but $6.7 billion from public funding — while numerous government audits have speculated that number to be up to twice as much.
The Olympic torch relay starts March 25 from Fukushima and will last for 121 days with 10,000 runners, and ending on July 23 at the opening ceremony at the National Stadium in Tokyo. The global sporting event will wrap up on Aug. 8. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5, 2021.