(by Steve Hopkins)
In an announcement that was not a surprise, Japan has officially announced they will bar spectators from the Tokyo Olympic events. The announcement was made yesterday by the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, and it follows the country’s declaration of a State of Emergency due to COVID infection rates. A few months ago, no one expected any spectators to be allowed – but sporting events in the US and throughout the world have begun to allow fans and the results have generally been positive. The initial plan was to allow about 50% of venue occupancy for spectators, but with events just two weeks away, that is no longer possible. The list of those negatively affected will be a long one: fans who had purchased tickets (and flights and hotels), athletes who rely on the energy of the crowd for support, workers who may no longer be necessary to control crowds and serve those attending, local businesses who won’t have crowds of people, and the Japanese taxpayers who spent billions of dollars to build stadiums and venues that will remain largely empty.
On the brighter side, the plans are now pretty much laid out. Athletes in our sport (and all sports) are all-to-familiar with the separation and waiting and testing associated with competing in their sport during a Pandemic. Even without fans in the stands, the World will be watching – and the Games will be here in a few days. In the end, a secure Olympic and Paralympic Games with safe athletes will be a major international accomplishment. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is finally here.