The Paralympic Games to take place behind closed doors
Tuesday, 17 August 2021
Bruno Vanhove, Jef VAndorpe, Michele George, and Piotr Van Montagu. Credit: Belga
The Tokyo Paralympic Games, which will run from 24 August to 5 September, will take place behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers confirmed on Monday.
A zero-spectator policy will be in place on all competition sites in Tokyo as well as in neighbouring prefectures of Saitama, Shizuoka, and Chiba, all of which are currently in a state of health emergency. Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee, arrived in Japan on Monday.
Organisers had previously hoped to allow the public to view events in Shizuoka – where cycling competitions are held – but with numbers limited to 5000 spectators, half of the venue’s capacity. However, the surge in coronavirus cases has made this impossible.
There are, however, a few exceptions to the ban on spectators, with school children permitted access to the Games at the request of local authorities.
Despite the restrictions, it is practically impossible to completely exclude spectators from viewing events when these take place on open streets. Although organisers requested the public refrain from coming to the trackside to watch competitions, thousands of Japanese spectators flanked roadsides for Olympic events such as the marathon, triathlons, and road cycling races.
Since the start of the Olympic Games on 23 July, the daily number of Covid-19 cases has more than doubled in Tokyo – largely due to the contagious Delta variant.
On Monday, the Japanese government announced states of health emergency in seven new prefectures: Ibarakim, Tochigi, Gunma, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo, and Fukuoka. Emergency measures will be in place until 12 September, with emergency states in other prefectures extended to the same date.
4,400 athletes are expected to participate in the Paralympic Games to compete in 539 events in 22 sports. 167 countries will this year be represented – a record after the 164 that competed in London in 2012.