August 16 2021
TOKYO – The Tokyo Paralympics will be held without spectators at all venues due to an alarming rise in coronavirus infections in the host city and many other parts of Japan, officials familiar with the planning said Monday, about a week before the opening of the games.
The officials said the policy to stage the Paralympics behind closed doors in Tokyo and the prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Shizuoka was confirmed at a meeting of local governments involved in the games, which will begin Aug. 24.
The four areas are where all venues of the games are located. The exception will be students from local schools participating in a government-backed educational program, according to the officials.
The organizers began a meeting in the evening, during which they are expected to formalize the spectator-less policy, as was the case with the Olympics that wrapped up on Aug. 8.
The meeting was attended by International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons, who arrived in Japan earlier in the day, Seiko Hashimoto, head of the organizing body, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and Japan’s Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa.
A decision on the Paralympics has been pushed back until the last minute to monitor how the infection situation in Japan develops.
Tokyo has been under a coronavirus state of emergency since July 12 due to an increase in cases triggered by the highly contagious Delta variant. It has reported record numbers of daily infections in recent weeks, with the daily tally hitting 5,773 on Friday, nearly triple the figure logged before the start of the Olympics on July 23.
A nationwide survey conducted by Kyodo News showed Monday that 64.7 percent of the public want the Paralympics to be held without spectators.
The organizers of the Paralympics were earlier considering allowing up to 5,000 fans into venues in Shizuoka Prefecture, which will host cycling events, as long as the figure would not exceed 50 percent of a venue’s capacity, according to the officials.
But it was changed as the governor of Shizuoka on Monday requested that the central government to expand the scope of the current state of emergency to include the prefecture, citing a strain on the prefecture’s medical system due to surging COVID-19 cases.
The Paralympics are expected to involve about 4,400 athletes from nearly 160 countries, but an IPC official said Monday that Afghanistan is likely to give up on participating in the games after the Afghan government collapsed on Sunday and the Taliban took control of the country.