The Olympics will take place without spectators in host city Tokyo following the resurgence of COVID-19 which has forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital, organizers said on Thursday, according to The Associated Press.
The move marked a sharp turnabout from as recently as last week, when some officials were still insisting they could organize the Games safely with some fans.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was essential to prevent Tokyo, where the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 variant was spreading, from becoming a flashpoint of new infections.
People will also be asked not to gather for events on public roads, such as the triathlon, though officials said some venues outside the greater Tokyo metropolitan area would allow small numbers of spectators.
"It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections," Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said, following talks between government officials, Tokyo organizers and Olympic and Paralympic representatives.
"I am sorry for those who purchased tickets," he added, according to AP.
Suga said COVID-19 infections were on the rise in Tokyo, due in part to the Delta variant, warning that that it could hit the rest of the country.
"We absolutely must avoid Tokyo being the starting point again of another spread of the infection," he was quoted as having told a news conference.
Tokyo's neighboring prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba will also not allow spectators at their Olympic events, the government said.
The Games have already been delayed from last year, following heavy pressure from athletes and sports federations as the global outbreak of coronavirus worsened.