The news that many athletics fans have been dreading was announced on Saturday, March 20, 2021 when it was confirmed that overseas spectators will not be allowed at the Olympics and Paralympics this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision was announced after a joint meeting between the International Olympic Committee, International Paralympic Committee, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 and the Japanese Government.

IOC president Thomas Bach said it is “a great sacrifice” and that re-funds will be made to those who have bought tickets. A bigger problem, though, is perhaps the many hotel rooms that have already been booked and the possibility of them refusing to give refunds or only partial refunds.

The news comes less than 48 hours after Seb Coe, the World Athletics president, said he hoped a decision on spectators at the Games would not be made too soon. However, it will come as no surprise to many as it was becoming increasingly likely to happen given the continuing global presence of the coronavirus.

“During the meeting, the IOC and IPC were informed about the conclusion of the Japanese parties not to allow entry into Japan for overseas spectators for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 due to the prevailing worldwide COVID-19 pandemic,” a statement read.

“Olympic and Paralympic tickets purchased by overseas residents from the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee will be refunded.

“Currently, the COVID-19 situation in Japan and many other countries around the world is still very challenging and a number of variant strains have emerged, whilst international travel remains severely restricted globally.

“Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas.

“In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public.”

The Olympic Games are due to take place from July 23 to August 8 with the Paralympics from August 24 to September 5.

“In many ways the Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different to any previous Games,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said.

“However, the essence of the Games will remain unchanged, as athletes give their utmost and inspire the world with transcendent performances.

“We are currently working on specific plans to share support remotely from around the world and help bring people together in ways suited to our current times.

“Even if you are no longer able to come to Japan this summer, we hope very much that you will continue to support the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

IOC president Bach said: “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. For this I am truly sorry.

“We know that this is a great sacrifice for everybody, we have said from the very beginning of this pandemic that it will require sacrifices. But we have also said that the first principle is safety. Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first. I know that our Japanese partners and friends did not reach this conclusion lightly.”