Hoping To Travel To Japan To Watch The Summer Olympics? We’ve Got Some Bad News

This year's greatest games on earth will be a locals-only event

View of Ariake Arena lit up after sunset
Ryosei Watanabe / Getty Images

Good news: Tokyo's 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are set to take place on schedule this summer after being postponed a year. Now, the bad news: Japan has recently announced that to keep the event safe, and presumably avoid any further postponement, no one outside Japan will be able to watch from the stands.

Whether or not the rescheduled games would accept overseas spectators has been up in the air since a December 2020 statement made by the Five Parties, which consists of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Organising Committee Tokyo 2020, and the Government of Japan. The statement promised a decision by spring 2021, based on the evolution of the pandemic situation in Japan and around the world.

Well, the pandemic is still here, and while vaccination numbers are steadily rising in countries around the world, with increasing numbers of variants and travel still being heavily restricted around the world, hosting international travelers at the 2020 games was just deemed too risky.

The official announcement reads, in part, “Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas. In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This conclusion will further contribute to ensure safe and secure Games for all participants and the Japanese public.” 

The 2020 Summer Olympics will take place in Tokyo from July 23, 2021, to Aug. 8, 2021, while the Paralympics are scheduled from Aug. 24, 2021, to Sept. 5, 2021. While fans cannot travel to Tokyo, that doesn't mean they still can’t watch the games from the best seat in the house—the couch.

“In many ways, the Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different to any previous Games. However, the essentials of the Games will remain unchanged, as athletes give their utmost and inspire the world with transcendent performances,” said Hashimoto Seiko, the 2020 Tokyo president, in a related statement.

“We are currently working on specific plans to share support remotely from around the world and help bring people together in ways suited to our current times. Even if you are no longer able to come to Japan this summer, we hope very much that you will continue to support the Tokyo 2020 Games.”