The Tokyo Olympics Are in Danger Because of Fears of Widespread Partying

The Games will take place during a state of emergency affecting Tokyo

Olympics Stadium
Branding on a fence surrounding the Olympic Stadium.
Carl Court/Getty

After Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihde Suga announced a state of emergency affecting Tokyo that will take effect Monday and last through August 22 due to rising coronavirus infections in the area, organizers of the Summer Olympics have confirmed the Games will take place with no fans in attendance.

The upcoming state of emergency will be Tokyo’s fourth since the pandemic began.

“Taking into consideration the effect of coronavirus variants and not to let the infections spread again to the rest of the nation, we need to strengthen our countermeasures,” the prime minister said.

Organizers had planned to allow venues to be filled to 50% of capacity with a maximum of 10,000 spectators, but a complete ban on spectators was deemed necessary as a result of the state of emergency being declared.

“It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said Thursday. “I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”

Curiously, one of the reasons the state of emergency seemed required in Tokyo — which is currently operating with restrictions on bars and restaurants that have proven ineffective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus — was to help curb partying during the Games.

“A main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close,” per The Associated Press. “A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-home requests and watch the Games on TV from home.”

Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday (up from 673 a week earlier), the 19th straight day that cases have topped the mark set seven days before.

“How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said.

Currently in self-isolation at a five-star hotel, IOC President Thomas Bach landed in Tokyo just hours before the new measures were announced. He said Olympic organizers remain “committed” to delivering the Games safely.

“We have shown this responsibility since the day of the postponement,” Bach said. “And we will also show it today, and we will support any measure which is necessary to have a safe and secure Olympic and Paralympic Games for the Japanese people and all the participants.”

Just 15% of the Japanese population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a fairly low mark compared to 47.4% in the United States and almost 50% in Britain. 

At least for now, let the Games begin on July 23rd.

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