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Organizers ban all fans from attending Tokyo Olympics over COVID-19 fears

Organizers decided last month to let local fans fill large Olympic venues in Tokyo to 50% capacity, but that has now changed due to concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases.  Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Organizers decided last month to let local fans fill large Olympic venues in Tokyo to 50% capacity, but that has now changed due to concerns over a surge in coronavirus cases.  Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

July 8 (UPI) -- All fans will be barred from attending all Olympic events in Tokyo this month and next, government officials and organizers said on Thursday -- the same day it was announced the city will remain in a state of emergency for more than a month.

Previously, organizers said only local spectators in Japan would be allowed to attend Olympic events, in an effort to avert coronavirus transmissions from foreign fans. Thursday, however, they said the ban will now extend to all spectators due to concerns about a rise in cases in Japan.

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Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike announced the ban.

Earlier Thursday, Suga said Tokyo will be under a new state of emergency starting on Monday and it will run through Aug. 22, well past the end of the Summer Games.

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"The number of severe cases and bed occupancy rate continues to be on the low level, but considering the impact of variants, we need to enhance countermeasures so that the infection will not spread nationwide," Suga said, according to CNN.

Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko said the extension of the emergency left organizers "no choice" to but shutdown Olympic venues entirely.

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"There are many people who were looking forward to the Games," Seiko said, according to ABC News. "We are very sorry we are able to deliver only a limited version of the Games but we want to ... ensure a safe and secure Games so that the people world over will be able to find the Olympic and Paralympic ideals."

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Earlier, International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach arrived in Tokyo to meet with Hashimoto and Koike about plans for spectators.

One option that had been considered was a ban only for late-night competitions at large venues -- those with a capacity of 5,000 or more. Also considered were exceptions for "special guests," IOC members, sponsors and foreign dignitaries.

Local organizers and the IOC announced last month that they would limit venues to 50% capacity up to 10,000 people.

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Olympic torch makes relay to Tokyo

Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lights the flame of hope in the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo on July 23. Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI | License Photo

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