As Japanese capital battles a new wave of COVID cases, pressure grows on Olympic organisers over spectators.
A senior Japanese official has apologised for not allowing any fans at the Olympic Games venues in certain parts of Japan as the Olympic torch relay reached the host city to a muted reception.
Tokyo 2020 senior director of ticketing, Hidenori Suzuki, expressed his feelings on Friday for fans who will not be able to watch the games in Tokyo and the three neighbouring prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
“I feel really sorry that we couldn’t meet the expectations of those who had been looking forward to the 2020 Games,” he said.
“We wanted to hold a successful Olympics with you all, one that gives lifetime memories to as many children and young people as possible. It would be great if people could understand that we had been working with this mentality.”
Suzuki said the committee will continue working hard for spectators who can watch the games at venues in Shizuoka, Ibaraki, Fukushima, Miyagi prefectures where the number of fans will be capped at 10,000, or 50 percent of seating capacity.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced a state of emergency would go into effect on Monday and last through August 22.
The games are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8.
Following the state of the emergency aimed at containing rising COVID-19 infections in Tokyo, no spectators will be allowed at the Olympic venues in the capital.
Torch on final journey
Meanwhile, the Olympic torch began its final phase before the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony.
Under a grey sky, organisers held a small ceremony at the almost empty Komazawa Olympic Park with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike in attendance.
Koike highlighted that the torch had found its way to Tokyo despite the difficult situation and named the relay a “way of hope”.
The torch relay, usually an anticipation-building moment before the Olympics, is limited due to coronavirus measures, and organisers failed to generate enthusiasm among the Japanese public, many of whom are against the Olympics going ahead.
Since the relay began at the end of March, the torch has made its way through Japan’s 47 prefectures but was banned from public roads in many areas.
It now faces the same treatment in Tokyo due to surging coronavirus infections. Except for a few areas, the torch relay is banned from the public streets of the Japanese capital.
The original plans would have seen 100 runners carry the Olympic torch through the Setagaya district and three districts in the western suburbs on Friday.
Instead, runners will take part in a ceremony without spectators in Machida, a city in the western part of the greater metropolitan Tokyo area.