Japan has decided to stage this summer's Tokyo Olymp ics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to concern among the Japanese public about COVID-19, Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.
The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to August 8 and the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.
Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as saying.
The opening ceremony of the torch relay would also be held without spectators, Kyodo said.
"The organising committee has decided it is essential to hold the ceremony in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima behind closed doors, only permitting participants and invitees to take part in the event, to avoid large crowds forming amid the pandemic," Kyodo said, quoting the officials.
Representatives of Tokyo 2020 were not immediately available for comment.
In the last Olympic Games, the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, local fans accounted for 80 percent of all ticket sales, with international fans buying 20 percent.
Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto had said she wanted a decision on whether to let in overseas spectators before the start of the torch relay on March 25.
"We would really like people from around the world to come to a full stadium, but unless we are prepared to accept them and the medical situation in Japan is perfect, it will cause a great deal of trouble also to visitors from overseas," Kyodo quoted Hashimoto as telling reporters last week.
The Japanese government and the games organising committee were due to hold a remote meeting with the International Olympic Committee later this month to make a formal decision on overseas visitors, Kyodo said.
While coronavirus infection numbers have been relatively low in Japan compared with the United States and many European countries, the country has been hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic and Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.
Japan has recorded more than 441,200 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic, with the death toll at more than 8,300.
Most Japanese people do not want international visitors to attend the Games amid fears that a large influx could spark a resurgence of infections, a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed.
The survey showed 77% of respondents were against allowing foreign fans to attend, versus 18% in favour.
Some 48% said they were against allowing any spectators into venues and 45% were in favour.