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Olympics bans spectators after Tokyo declares Covid emergency

a robot is seen at an information desk in front of the olympic rings before the arrival of ioc president bach at haneda airport in tokyo ahead of tokyo 2020 olympic games
A robot that was supposed to greet fans at Haneda Airport REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Thursday agreed to hold the Games without spectators, after Japan declared a coronavirus state of emergency for the capital that will run throughout the event.

The widely expected move was made following talks between the government, Tokyo organisers and Olympic and paralympic representatives.

It was “regrettable” that the Games were going to be held in a limited format, Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing, adding her apologies 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.

The ban all but robs the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled to run from July 23 to Aug. 8, of their last hope for pomp and public spectacle.

Once seen as a chance for Japan to stand large on the global stage after a devastating earthquake a decade ago, the showpiece event was delayed by the pandemic last year and has been hit by massive budget overruns.

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 fresh wave of infections.

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