A Tokyo 2020 Olympics official in charge of ticket sales choked up as he apologised to people who had their tickets cancelled.
Hidenori Suzuki, senior director of ticketing, spoke publicly on Friday about the last-minute move to hold the Games without spectators due to the COVID pandemic.
Organisers announced the decision on Thursday to stage the event – which runs from 23 July to 8 August – behind closed doors, as a fresh wave of infections forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital.
Mr Suzuki started tearing up as he said on TV: “For people who have been looking forward to the Tokyo 2020 Games, I feel really sorry that we couldn’t meet their expectations.”
He also said: “For people who have been waiting to see the Games for two years due to the postponement of the Olympics, and for fans who have been looking forward to watching their favourite competitions and the top level events with families and friends, I feel really sorry that we can no longer provide them this opportunity.”
Suzuki added that ticketholders will receive refunds for the cancelled tickets.
Restaurant chief Kouji Sato, 61, who had bought tickets to the opening ceremony as a present to his wife, was among those who was disappointed by the decision.
He said: “I’ve been worried about the Olympics, but yesterday when I heard the news that no spectators would be allowed in, I felt angry for the first time.”
Meanwhile, another ticketholder, Kazunori Takishima, had spent $40,000 to fulfil the dream of setting a world record of attending the most Olympic events ever.
Mr Takishima, who runs a real estate office in the city, had bought 100 Tokyo 2020 tickets, saving and scheming for years as he worked towards this goal.
“I stayed up until three in the morning with my mind completely blank,” Mr Takishima said of his reaction to the decision to ban fans.
“I was just really stunned by the news. I wish I had been able to cry. That would have helped relieve my stress.”
Mr Takishima, 45, said he has attended every summer and winter games since the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics in Italy.
Before Tokyo 2020, he had attended 106 ticketed Olympic competitions, and he had planned to see 28 events over the 17 days of the Games.
The Guinness World Record currently stands at 128 but Mr Takishima started negotiating with Guinness to register his record of 134 in May.
While he will still get his money back, he said: “All the fun that I looked forward to was taken away, little by little.
“Banning fans from venues was the final blow.”
He is hopeful of breaking the record at next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics or at Paris in 2024 but said it will not be the same as doing it in his hometown.
The international sporting event was postponed from last summer while opinion polls have consistently shown the Japanese public to be worried about them going ahead during the pandemic.
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