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Tokyo Olympics Organizers Cancel Plans for Spectators at May 9 Test Game Amid COVID-19 Surge

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee said on Tuesday that it had decided against a previous proposal to welcome some spectators to a May 9 test event.

Kyodo News reported Tuesday, citing “sources close to the matter,” that the May 9 test event at the new National Stadium, a multi-use stadium in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward that opened in December 2019, will no longer allow the 20,000 spectators it had once anticipated letting in.

According to the Tokyo Games’ official website, a test event is “a dress rehearsal to confirm and improve the competition and Games operation capabilities in order to ensure their successful operation during the Olympic and Paralympic Games.” The site notes test events are typical for Olympics Games.

A surging COVID-19 outbreak in the island nation is to blame for the reversal. Earlier this month, the administration of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga put Tokyo and Osaka under “quasi-states of emergency,” but

according to Reuters, two weeks in, the measures haven’t blunted the outbreak. 

As a result, Suga declared a full state of emergency in Osaka on Tuesday and is expected to do so in Tokyo as well.

© AP Photo / Jae C. Hong
The New National Stadium, a venue for the opening and closing ceremonies at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, is seen from Shibuya Sky observation deck in Tokyo, Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

The Tokyo Olympic Games were originally scheduled for the summer of 2020, but the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic caused the games to be postponed until July 23 of this year. However, games organizers are adamant that

“the show will go on,” pandemic or not.

Games organizers also said on Tuesday that all athletes would be tested for COVID-19 on a daily basis, primarily through saliva-based tests. That is also an increase, with earlier plans calling for tests every four days.

Last month, organizers also made the call

not to allow foreign spectators to come to Japan and view the games, returning all 630,000 tickets previously sold. Typically, roughly 10-20% of tickets are sold to foreign spectators. The decision is expected to further blunt a potential outbreak of COVID-19, but will cost the country an estimated $1.4 billion in lost revenues. 

Still, some nations aren’t taking any chances. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea announced earlier this month that its athletes would be staying home this year. At the last Olympics, at PyeongChang, South Korea, in February 2018, the two Koreas competed under a single team banner, the beginnings of a rapprochement that saw them pen an end-of-war declaration the following September for the as-yet unresolved Korean War that ended in a 1953 ceasefire.

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