Tokyo Olympics to be held without spectators over Covid-19 concerns

Japan's government puts capital under virus state of emergency from July 12 to August 22

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The Tokyo Olympics is set to be held behind closed doors after it was announced that spectators will be banned from Games venues because of a virus state of emergency.

"We reached an agreement on no spectators at venues in Tokyo," Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa said after talks involving local and national government officials.

Most Olympic competition are set to be held in Tokyo, but a few events will be hosted outside the capital.

It was "regrettable" that the Games were going to be held in a limited format, Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing, apologising to those who had bought tickets.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was essential to prevent Tokyo, where the highly infectious Delta Covid-19 variant was spreading, from becoming the source of another wave of infections.

Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators would be the least risky option, amid widespread public fears that an influx of thousands of athletes and officials will fuel a rise in cases.

Earlier, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach had given his support to the organisers.

"I can assure you now we continue to be committed to our principle of organising a safe Games together with you. We have shown this responsibility since the day of postponement [in March 2020] until today. We will support any measure that is necessary to have a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games for the Japanese people and all participants."

The public had already been asked to stay away from the marathon, which is being held in the northern Hokkaido region to beat Tokyo's summer heat.

Large parts of the torch relay traversing the country have also been held behind closed doors because of virus concerns. The spectator decision comes after Japan's government said that Tokyo would be under a virus state of emergency from July 12 to August 22.

Updated: July 08, 2021, 2:24 PM