Tokyo Olympics: Games to go ahead without spectators after Covid state of emergency declared

ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports on the latest Olympics developments which come as a blow to athletes

This summer's Tokyo Olympics will go ahead without spectators after a surge in Covid-19 cases, organisers have confirmed.

Japan's Olympics minister said organisers agreed that fans should not be allowed to attend the games.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of this year's Games, described the situation as "regrettable" and apologised to those who had bought tickets.

The announcement came after Japan placed Tokyo under a state of emergency that will last throughout the Olympics.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the state of emergency would go into effect on Monday and last through until August 22, amid fears that an ongoing Covid-19 surge will multiply during the Games.

Only 15% of the Japanese population are fully vaccinated against coronavirus.

This means the Olympics, running between July 23 and August 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures.

The Paralympics runs from August 24 until September 5.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Mr Suga said the state of emergency was needed to “prevent the resurgence of the future spread of cases across the country”.

Its main focus is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlours serving alcohol to close.

A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying.

Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and to watch the Games on TV from home. The present state of emergency ends on Sunday.

Tokyo reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, up from 714 a week earlier.

Japan has placed Tokyo under a state of emergency starting next week Credit: Shinji Kita/Kyodo News via AP

It was the 18th straight day of week-on-week increases, and was the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.

Fans from abroad were banned months ago from attending the Olympics.

But just two weeks ago, organisers and the International Olympic Committee decided to allow venues to be filled to 50% of capacity but crowds not to exceed 10,000 and that has now been reduced to no fans.

While spectators will not be allowed, sponsors, media and administrators will likely still be allowed.

“The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it,” Dr Shigeru Omi, a top Japanese government medical adviser, said.

Dr Omi, who has repeatedly called for a ban on spectators, has urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics, with summer holidays approaching.

Separately, a government Covid-19 advisory panel met on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the ongoing resurgence of the infections.

The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement stalled the IOC’s income flow.

It gets almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose between $3 billion and $4 billion (£2.2 billion to £2.9 billion) if the Olympics were cancelled.

Around 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters and media also entering.

The IOC says more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.

Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths.