The ban came hours after the state of emergency in the capital from Monday, declared by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to contain the increase in COVID-19 cases.
The twin decisions turned the Olympics into a made-for-television event in a move pushed by the Japanese government and backed by the International Olympic Committee.
“A lot of people were looking forward to watching the games at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home,” Koike said after the meeting.
Fans on board were banned months ago, and the new measures will wipe out sites around Tokyo – indoor and outdoor – of all fans.
The declaration of emergency made for a brutal arrival in Japan for IOC President Thomas Bach, who landed in Tokyo on Thursday a few hours before the announcement of the new measures. He was to spend three days in isolation in the five-star hotel that houses the IOC members.
Suga said the state of emergency would go into effect on Monday and last until August 22. This means that the Olympics, which will open on July 23 and end on August 8, will be played entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympic Games open on August 24.
“Given the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures,” Suga said.
Suga, who has long favored fans, hinted at a fanless Olympics when announcing the state of emergency.
“I have already said that I will not hesitate not to have spectators,” he added.
Just two weeks ago, the organizers and the IOC allowed the venues to be filled to 50% of their capacity but that the crowd did not exceed 10,000 people. The state of emergency forced a late recovery, which was always an option if the infections worsened.
“We’ll have to consider the no-spectator option,” Marukawa said in opening remarks with the IOC and others as they gathered to discuss a fan ban.
The main focus of the emergency is a request to close bars, restaurants and karaoke lounges serving alcohol. Banning the serving of alcohol is a key step in easing the Olympic festivities and preventing people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-at-home requests and watch the games on TV from their homes.
“How to prevent people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a major problem,” said Health Minister Norihisa Tamura.
The current state of emergency ends on Sunday. Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, up from 673 a week earlier. This is the 19th day in a row that cases have surpassed the mark established seven days earlier. New cases reached 920 on Wednesday, the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.
The fanless atmosphere will include the opening ceremony at the $ 1.4 billion National Stadium, which is traditionally the most-watched event during the Olympics.
” It is not too late. Cancel or postpone it, ”said Yukio Edano, leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party to Suga’s PLD.
The rise in infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to remove the Olympic Torch Relay from the streets of the capital, allowing it to operate only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It is not known how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.
“The infections are in their phase of expansion and everyone in this country needs to firmly understand the severity,” said Dr Shigeru Omi, one of the government’s top medical advisers.
He urged authorities to take strict action quickly ahead of the Olympics, as the summer vacation approaches.
Omi has repeatedly called for a spectator ban and said it was “abnormal” to hold the Olympics during a pandemic.
Separately, a government advisory group on COVID-19 met on Wednesday and expressed concerns about the continued resurgence of infections.
“Two-thirds of infections in the capital region come from Tokyo, and our concern is the spread of infections to neighboring areas,” said Ryuji Wakita, director general of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
The Olympics are pushing forward against most medical advice, in part because the postponement has blocked IOC revenue streams. It derives nearly 75% of its revenue from the sale of broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose between $ 3 billion and $ 4 billion if the Olympics were canceled.
About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, along with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters and media. The IOC says more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.
Nationally, Japan has recorded about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15% of Japanese are fully vaccinated, which remains low compared to 47.4% in the United States and nearly 50% in Great Britain.