Tokyo Olympics: IOC President Bach regrets no fans



IOC President Thomas Bach (on-screen) waves at the beginning of a video conference in Tokyo, Japan, July 8, 2021. /CFP

When Tokyo Olympic organizers announced their decision late on Friday to ban spectators in Hokkaido, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach promised athletes a global digital audience of billions after the organizers' decision to ban spectators from the venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Japan's northernmost island,


, will allow a maximum of 10,000 spectators during Olympic events held in the daytime, announced the organizers on earlier Friday. The decision was later reversed as the Hokkaido's Sopporo Dome stadium, which will host men's and women's football, will hold matches behind closed doors. Spectators from overseas had been banned months ago.

On Thursday, Tokyo Games organizers decided the July 23-August 8 Olympics would take place without spectators for events that happen in Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama due to a recent surge in COVID-19 infections, and a state of emergency in the capital will run throughout the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach waves at media upon his arrival in Tokyo, Japan, July 8, 2021. /CFP

"This was a really difficult one and we all regret the consequences for you the athletes but also for the spectators," Bach said from Tokyo in a video message to athletes.

"But it was a decision which was necessary to ensure a safe Olympic Games. I hope we all agree that the most important thing is that the Olympic Games are happening," he added.

"It will be under very different circumstances but you need not to feel alone in these stadia," Bach said. "Billions of people in the entire world will be glued to their screens. I hope you can feel this support."

Yuriko Koike, governor of Tokyo, speaks at the unveiling ceremony of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay's final leg in Tokyo, Japan, July 9, 2021. /CFP

The IOC said the Games would be broadcast globally to a potential audience of more than five billion people, with more coverage by broadcast partners than any previous Olympic Games across both linear TV and digital.

"We can look forward to a great Olympic Games under very special circumstances," Bach said. "Tokyo is ready, venues are marvelous. The athletes can finally come and concentrate on what the Games are for, and these are the Olympic competitions."

(With input from agencies)

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