The International Olympic Committee voiced disappointment Saturday that overseas fans would need to be barred from this summer’s pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics, but said it “fully respected and accepted” the decision.
Announced by organisers Saturday following talks between local organisers, Japanese officials and Olympic and Paralympic chiefs, the ban will make the Tokyo Games the first ever without overseas spectators.
The IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said in a statement that “for the reason of the safety of every Games participant and the Japanese people, their conclusion is fully respected and accepted.”
They stressed that all tickets to the Games already purchased by overseas residents would be refunded.
“We share the disappointment of all enthusiastic Olympic fans from around the world, and of course the families and friends of the athletes, who were planning to come to the Games,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in the statement.
“For this I am truly sorry. We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody,” he added.
But he stressed that in the middle of a pandemic, “every decision has to respect the principle of safety first.”
“I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly,” Bach said.
He added that every effort would be made with broadcasters “so that the fans from around the world will be able to experience the Olympic spirit,” hoping for “a safe manifestation of peace, solidarity and the resilience of humankind in overcoming the pandemic.”