This summer’s Tokyo Olympics will go ahead without spectators after a surge in coronavirus cases, organisers have announced.
The widely expected move was made following talks between the government, Tokyo organisers and Olympic and paralympic representatives.
Japan has now declared a coronavirus state of emergency for the capital that will run throughout the event.
Public viewings of the Games have been cancelled and restaurants will be asked to stop serving alcohol under the state of emergency.
Seiko Hashimoto, president of this year’s Games, said the situation was “regrettable” and apologised to those who had bought tickets.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the move is essential to prevent Tokyo, where the highly infectious Delta COVID-19 variant was spreading, from becoming the source of another wave of infections.
The ban all but robs the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August, of their last hope for pomp and public spectacle.
Once seen as a chance for Japan to stand large on the global stage after a devastating earthquake a decade ago, the showpiece event was delayed by the pandemic last year and has been hit by massive budget overruns.
Medical experts have said for weeks that having no spectators would be the least risky option, amid widespread public fears that an influx of thousands of athletes and officials will fuel a fresh wave of infections.