(ATR) A vexing question has been answered for the Tokyo Olympics. Foreign spectators will not be allowed to attend the postponed 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in July and August.
The decision was confirmed in a high level virtual meeting between leaders of the IOC, international Paralympic Committee, Tokyo 2020 and municipal and national governments.
The move to ban ticketholders from overseas is one of the most dramatic of coronavirus countermeasures taken by Tokyo 2020 since the games were postponed in late March one year ago. Questions about the status of foreigners coming to Tokyo for the Olympics and Paralympics have been a constant ever since.
Word on whether domestic ticketholders will be admitted to the Games, perhaps on a reduced seating plan, is expected in April.
As with the postponement of the Olympics and Paralympics, the restrictions on spectators from abroad is a first in the annals of the IOC. Reflecting the serious nature of the ticketing decision, the 15-member IOC Executive Board met virtually today to ratify the move.
"We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody. We have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that it will require sacrifices," said IOC President Thomas Bach in a statement.
"Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first. I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly. Together with them, the IOC’s top priority was, is and remains to organise safe Olympic and Paralympic Games for everyone: all the participants and, of course, our gracious hosts, the Japanese people. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder at the side of our Japanese partners and friends, without any kind of reservation, to make the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 a great success," said the IOC leader.
The blocking of foreign spectators may not be surprising. Japan has fought back the infection with an array of countermeasures, Beginning next week a state of emergency will be lifted in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures where Olympic events will be held. With just four months to the Games, international visitors are still barred from entering Japan. Word of a new outbreak of infections in Europe will not help ease that restriction.
Credentialed persons from overseas will be allowed to enter for the Olympics. But they will need to follow the rules for their time in Japan that will severely limit contact with others outside the Olympic bubble.
The decision will mean a blow to the atmosphere surrounding the Olympics. Hundreds of thousands of international visitors customarily travel to the summer Games. Besides helping to fill the stands, the Olympic visitors add color to the scene outside venues and in the tourist haunts of the host city.
The absence of overseas spectators also means another hole in the budget for Tokyo 2020, which has gone up by nearly $1 billion as a result of the postponement. Tokyo 2020 says about 600,000 tickets were expected to be sold overseas, Refunds will be honored by Tokyo 2020..
Besides the fans forced to stay home, disappointment is high among Authorized Ticket Resellers which handle worldwide ticket sales through the National Olympic Committees. Canceling overseas visitors to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics could put some of these companies on the brink of failure.
CoSport, which handles tickets for the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and other NOCs, issued a statement pledging to deliver refunds as soon as money is returned from Japan.
"As soon as Tokyo 2020 provides us with the official refund policies and procedures, which the International Olympic Committee will have to approve, CoSport and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee will work with Tokyo 2020 to secure our customers’ refund based on those policies and the terms and conditions of their purchases.
"The refund process likely will be similar to the way refunds were provided last year for those who chose the option not to attend due to the postponement. The Tokyo 2020 organizers first will have to return the necessary funds to CoSport because CoSport, as an intermediary, long ago forwarded our customers’ payments to Tokyo 2020. We have learned from that unprecedented situation – the first mass refund in Olympic history – and are endeavoring to make the process better for everyone," says the statement from the company based in Far Hills, N,J,
Reported by Ed Hula.