Japan's minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games has announced that no spectators will be allowed at Olympic venues in Tokyo and the three surrounding prefectures of Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa.
Marukawa Tamayo spoke to reporters on Thursday after a five-party meeting between the Japanese government, the games' organizing committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the International Olympic and Paralympic committees.
Marukawa said the decision comes after the Japanese government decided earlier in the day to declare a coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo.
The state of emergency will take effect on Monday and continues through the Olympics before ending on August 22.
The government also decided to extend targeted anti-infection measures for the three surrounding prefectures for the same period.
The minister said spectator numbers at Olympic venues in Miyagi, Fukushima and Shizuoka prefectures will be capped at 10,000, or 50 percent of seating capacity, whichever is lower. She said this is in line with the agreement reached at a five-party meeting on June 21.
Marukawa said an Olympic venue in Ibaraki Prefecture will accept only schoolchildren to whom tickets are allocated under a preferential system.
She added that further discussions will be held on what to do about spectators at Olympic venues in Hokkaido Prefecture.
Olympic organizers say there will be no fans cheering on the world's top athletes, when they compete in Tokyo-area venues starting in just two weeks. The news was met with a mix of disappointment and understanding.
Just before the organizers made their decision, the Japanese government announced a fresh coronavirus state of emergency for the capital. It begins on Monday and runs throughout the Games.
The organizers decided not to allow spectators at events in Tokyo and the neighboring prefectures of Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa.
But a limited number of fans will be allowed in four prefectures, including Fukushima.
Reporters asked the Tokyo governor on Thursday why the Games should be held at all, considering the pandemic.
Koike Yuriko responded, "People around the world have had differing opinions throughout the pandemic. I expect that the Olympics could be an opportunity to change the situation using the power of sports to encourage people."
Chiba Governor Kumagai Toshihito said he understands the need for the ban. His prefecture will host taekwondo, wrestling, fencing and surfing events.
Kumagai said, "As a host prefecture, we'll make our best efforts to gain public support by taking thorough preventive measures."
Many Japanese athletes had hoped to draw on the excitement of a crowded stadium but now say they know fans will be cheering from home.
Badminton player Momota Kento says, "I am not in a position to comment on the decision, but I'll do all I can to live up to the responsibilities that were entrusted to me."
Tickets were hard to come by. Fukumoto Reiko is among the fans who were lucky enough to secure some for the women's soccer final. Now she won't get the chance to use them. Fukumoto expressed her disappointment, saying, "No one did anything wrong. All I can do is feel really sorry about the situation."
Meanwhile, the torch relay has started in Tokyo. But the Olympic flame will not travel on most of the routes. Runners participating in the ceremonial event are lighting the flame without spectators.