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Five-time Olympic medalist and gymnastics superstar Simone Biles and other athletes are expected to compete in the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. However, if and when they do, their fans from home will not be allowed to cheer them on in person.
Olympics organizers announced on Saturday, March 20 that international spectators will not be allowed to enter Japan for the event due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The rapid spread of the virus around the world resulted in the postponement of the Games last year. Vaccines have begun to be distributed internationally in recent months. Still, there are fears of additional waves, amid the emergence of new variants of COVID-19.
"Currently, the COVID-19 situation in Japan and many other countries around the world is still very challenging and a number of variant strains have emerged, whilst international travel remains severely restricted globally," read a statement on the Tokyo Olympics website. "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."
The statement continued, "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."
Some 600,000 Olympic tickets purchased by overseas residents will be refunded, as will another 300,000 Paralympic tickets, Reuters quoted Toshiro Muto, the chief executive of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, as saying in a news conference. He declined to say how much the refunds would cost.
Muto also added that "people who are involved in the Olympics in some way may be allowed to enter the country, whereas regular visitors will not be able to," and that local spectators will still be able to attend and that audience caps will be decided next month, the news wire reported.
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo are set to take place between July 23 and Aug. 8, while the Paralympics run from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
See which U.S. athletes are set to compete in the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo:
Harry How/Getty ImagesCaeleb Dressel
Status: TBD! All eyes are on the Olympic hopeful who is already being compared to Michael Phelps after he beat the swimmer's time in the 100m butterfly.
Laurent Masurel/WSL via Getty ImagesCaroline Marks
Status: Qualified for 2021 Summer Olympics
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesSimone BIles
Status: TBD. "Hopefully the Olympics can still be put on, even if it means we're in a bubble. I'll basically do anything at this moment…It just is a matter of time until we hear what the Olympic Committee has to say and what their precautions are going to be going forward," she said on NBC's Today show in January 2021. "But whatever they say they want us to do, I'm in 100 percent."