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Why ‘Cursed’ Olympics Are Pressing Ahead Amid a Pandemic

The organizers scrapped their first logo after plagiarism accusations. The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee was indicted on corruption charges related to the bidding process. Out of fears of extreme heat in Tokyo, the I.O.C. moved the marathon to Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island, 500 miles from the Olympic Stadium.

Taro Aso, the country’s finance minister, has described the Tokyo Olympics as “cursed.”

For Japan, the prospect of recouping its costs has grown only more distant, after the Tokyo organizing committee said on Saturday that it would not allow foreign spectators. Without these visitors, there is now little upside for hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

The organizers say that their focus is primarily on safety, and that they have earmarked $900 million in spending on measures to combat the virus. They have watched in recent weeks as other major sporting events — the Australian Open, the N.C.A.A. men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — have gone ahead. For the Games, some countries are pushing Olympians to the front of the vaccination line, and the I.O.C. has agreed to supply Chinese vaccines for those who need one.

The organizers say vaccination will not be mandatory, however, and many athletes, delegates and others will be coming from places where vaccines are unlikely to be fully available. Japan itself will not start vaccinations for those over 65 until next month, and there has been no indication that athletes will be prioritized.

Infections and deaths in Japan have never spiraled to the levels seen in the United States or Europe, but the country is still recording more than 1,000 new infections each day and dozens of deaths. The Tokyo region was under a state of emergency until Sunday, and the country’s borders remain closed to most overseas visitors.

With more contagious and perhaps deadlier variants circulating around the globe, epidemiologists warn that the Tokyo Olympics have the potential to turbocharge the virus’s spread.

Controlling the pathogen will be “almost close to mission impossible,” said Dr. Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University Hospital. “Canceling the Olympic Games would be much easier.”

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Overseas spectators are barred from the Tokyo Olympics.

TOKYO — Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday, making a major concession to the realities of Covid-19 even as they forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo organizing committee, promised at a news conference on Saturday that the lack of international spectators would not spoil the Games.

“The Tokyo 2020 Games will be completely different from the past, but the essence remains the same,” Ms. Hashimoto said. “Athletes will put everything on the line and inspire people with their outstanding performances.”

The Tokyo Games, which begin in July, were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The Tokyo organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents from the virus.

announced this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who required one ahead of the Games.

But not all local spectators will have the chance to be inoculated before the Olympics open on July 23. In Japan, where the vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.

Japan has had about 455,000 Covid-19 cases and 8,797 deaths during the pandemic, far fewer than in the United States and Western Europe, according to a New York Times database. The country declared a widespread state of emergency in early January after a rise in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would end in Tokyo on Sunday.

As part of its efforts to stop the spread of new, more infectious variants of Covid-19, Japan has also barred all new entries into the country from abroad since late December, excepting Olympic athletes and some of their entourages. The exception has been contentious: Foreign students and workers are still unable to enter the country, and the foreign ministry has not given any clear indications as to when that might change.

Regardless of the opposition, officials plan to officially kick off the countdown to the Games on Thursday with the torch relay, starting in Fukushima. As with the events this summer, the number of spectators will be limited.

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Spectators From Overseas Are Barred From Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the Summer Olympics in Japan, organizers said on Saturday, making a major concession to the realities of Covid-19 even as they forged ahead with plans to hold the world’s largest sporting event.

The Tokyo Games, which begin in July, were originally scheduled for 2020 but were delayed by a year because of the pandemic. The Tokyo organizing committee has been scrambling to develop safety protocols to protect both participants and local residents from the virus. Concern has been running high in Japan, with big majorities saying in polls that the Games should not be held this summer.

The decision, which the Tokyo organizers made jointly with the International Olympic Committee, the International Paralympic Committee and the national and local governments in Japan, had been foreshadowed in the Japanese media for weeks.

Thomas Bach, the president of the I.O.C., has encouraged national organizing committees to secure vaccines for athletes, and he announced this month that China had offered to provide vaccinations for participants who required one ahead of the Games.

vaccine rollout has been relatively slow, the population will not be close to fully vaccinated by the time the Games start.

The organizing committees will now have the enormous headache of arranging refunds for ticket buyers. In bidding for the Games, the Tokyo organizers said that 7.8 million tickets would be made available. Typically, about 10 to 20 percent of Olympic tickets go to international spectators.

Japanese fans could take up some of the slack. Local demand for tickets far outstripped the supply, at least before the pandemic.

The coronavirus has had a comparatively muted effect on Japan, which has had far fewer cases and deaths than the United States and Western Europe. The country has reported just over 8,700 Covid-19 deaths since the pandemic began.

Japan declared a widespread state of emergency in early January after a rise in infections. Since then, most areas have lifted the declaration. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced this week that it would be ended in Tokyo.

a superfan who has attended 15 Olympics, bought about $8,600 in tickets for the Tokyo Games for himself and his nephew.

They were looking forward to seeing beach volleyball, archery, fencing, diving and a men’s basketball game and had tickets for the closing ceremony. According to terms from CoSport, the broker that handled ticket sales for U.S.-based fans, customers will not be repaid for some fees — which Mr. Brown said could cost him about $1,200 — and refunds could take time.

“Since we are being barred, it is only right for them to make everyone whole and refund all of the money paid,” Mr. Brown said before the official announcement was made. What’s more, he said, after waiting a whole year, he wanted his refund quickly. “It would be real painful watching this at home on TV and knowing they have the money, and not knowing when you’re going to get it back.”

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Tokyo Olympics Official Resigns After Calling Plus-Size Celebrity ‘Olympig’

TOKYO — It was few people’s idea of funny.

For the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, its creative director, Hiroshi Sasaki, envisioned a popular comedian and plus-size fashion designer, Naomi Watanabe, decked out in pig ears, tumbling from the sky as an Olympic messenger. Or, as he put it, an “Olympig.”

On Thursday, one day after a Japanese magazine revealed that Mr. Sasaki, 66, had shared this idea with colleagues a year ago, he resigned and apologized. His departure came weeks after the president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, 83, stepped down after coming under widespread criticism for saying that women talk too much in meetings.

In response to the outrage over Mr. Mori, the organizing committee has been scrambling just months before the start of the Games to place women in leadership positions in an attempt to rectify its image as a stodgy “old men’s club.”

Mr. Sasaki’s quick resignation was a sharp contrast to Mr. Mori’s exit. While Mr. Mori apologized quickly for his sexist comment, he initially said he would not resign, and none of Japan’s top government officials demanded his departure.

online petitions to unseat him, protests from female lawmakers in opposition parties and concerns from some Olympic sponsors.

In the case of Mr. Sasaki, a former advertising executive who was put in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies in December, he submitted his resignation just hours after the article appeared on the website of Shukan Bunshun, a weekly magazine.

Mr. Sasaki said in a statement on Thursday that he had made his remark in a group chat with colleagues on a messaging app. Several criticized his idea as insulting, he said, and he quoted two of them.

“It’s impossible to compare a woman to a pig,” one said. Another wrote, “Even if that’s a spontaneous idea, you shouldn’t say that.”

Mr. Sasaki said he had taken their responses to heart and had taken back his suggestion. But he did not decide to resign until reporters contacted him for their article.

swaggering dance performances of Beyoncé songs, and she has been called “the Japanese Beyoncé” in the media. A champion for body positivity in a country that largely prizes thinness in women, she has joked about feeling most liberated when eating ice cream in bed and how a muscular sumo wrestler embodies her ideal body type.

Punyus, and was named a global brand ambassador of Kate Spade in 2020. This month, she said that she was moving to the United States to build her entertainment career there, and that she had secured representation from ICM Partners and IMG Models.

Seiko Hashimoto, who replaced Mr. Mori as president of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, said on Thursday that she was shocked by Mr. Sasaki’s remark about Ms. Watanabe, calling it “inappropriate and very regrettable.”

She first learned about Mr. Sasaki’s comment from the Shukan Bunshun article, she said in a news briefing. The committee was in the process of verifying the report, she said, when Mr. Sasaki called her late Wednesday to explain what had happened and offer his resignation.

“In light of his firm decision to resign, and in light of the fact that we have made gender equality a focus,” Ms Hashimoto said, “I have accepted and thanked him for his many contributions.”

When asked if she would have preferred that he stay, given that the opening ceremony is just four months away, Ms. Hashimoto said, “Yes, I had that feeling.” But after hearing his determination to resign, she added, she accepted.

Mr. Sasaki, who was already in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies for the Paralympic Games, had the ceremonies for the Olympic Games added to his portfolio after the event was postponed last year because of the pandemic. He had said the Olympic ceremonies would be scaled down, to reflect the sacrifices of the past year.

He also directed the flag handover ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, where the Japanese prime minister at the time, Shinzo Abe, appeared dressed as Mario, the Nintendo video game character.

Makiko Inoue and Motoko Rich reported from Tokyo, and Tiffany May from Hong Kong.

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