In a return to what American sports fans experienced in 2020, the Olympics will be held chiefly without fans watching in person during its July 23rd to August 8th run. This move is in response to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Japan. The host country of 128 million on an island smaller than California has done well up to this point in keeping the number of cases down (over 815,000 at the time of the decision) and fatalities (nearly 15,000), as compared to the United States and many other countries. About 16% of Japan’s residents have received both shots of the vaccine, and 28% have received their first.
Country asserts sovereign powers
The host country had already announced that it barred foreign fans from attending the Games, keeping with restrictions at the time. At one point, it had previously said that it would allow a 10,000 maximum for larger events. With the Games delayed in 2020, many Japanese officials and citizens still oppose holding the Games in 2021 as cases continue to climb and new variants emerge.
As of July 12, the host city of Tokyo is in a new state of emergency (the city’s fourth) as concerns about the precautionary measures. Officials are also now asking local fans to watch on TV rather than attend non-stadium events to keep people’s movements to a minimum, thus reducing the contagion’s spread.
Cases in Olympic Village
Athletes and support staff have begun to arrive. They are tested and face many restrictions in the village. At least three athletes and some support staff have already tested positive two weeks before the Games begin. These numbers will likely continue to grow up until the conclusion. Ideally, the precautions will keep athletes safe and avoid it becoming a super-spreader catastrophe. Despite the precautions, many athletes will skip this year’s Games, citing safety concerns.