After a year of delay and just a few weeks away, the Tokyo Olympics will be fanless after Japan declared a state of emergency over the coronavirus.
Olympic officials had already banned international spectators weeks before, but Thursday’s news means even those living in Japan will not be able to attend.
“We had known for a while that our family couldn’t come, and so this news is hardly surprising, I guess I would say,” said Tom Scott, an Olympic athlete from North Texas.
Fans will be banned from entering stadiums and arenas in the Tokyo area when the Olympics begin after the Japanese Prime Minister declared a state of emergency until August 8. This is disappointing news for some North Texas fans who were planning to travel to Tokyo to support Team USA.
Scott, 31, is from DFW and dated the Dallas Jesuit. He has been training at the Classic Karate Academy since the age of 8 and is currently a karate instructor at St. Mark’s Catholic School in Plano.
He represents the US team in Kumite (fighting), as does Brian Irr, 32, who is also from Plano Dojo.
These are the first Olympic Games to start karate.
Scott said having a crowd can be energizing, but it can also be beneficial not having fans in the stands.
“It’s an exciting environment, but honestly without it it will also give the athletes a cool head and maybe even the playing field, so I’m excited about that aspect,” Scott said. “Well, we didn’t want our Japanese opponents to have an advantage over us, so we’re going to find a silver lining in that.”
Having a live audience in any arena adds an atmosphere that many athletes thrive on in sport, especially at events like swimming and diving.
“It’s going to be weird, it’s going to be different without spectators there, but at least we have the Olympics,” said Edgar Hernandez, who lives in Southlake.
Before all the travel bans for the Olympics, he had planned to travel to Tokyo to support Hailey Hernandez, the 18-year-old diver from Southlake who recently earned her place on the US team.
“We are heartbroken. I was ready to start looking for plane tickets, and then I didn’t see any authorized viewers, so I guess just watch it on TV,” Hernandez said.
Edgar, who is unrelated to Hailey, said he has known the Olympian since she was in first grade because she and her son were on the same swim team at Southlake High School Carrol. He said that since their two families have the same last name, the parents joke and call each other cousins.
“We wish Hailey the best and we’ll be with her in mind and cheer her on, I guess shouting for her on TV,” said Edgar, whose family are helping organize a farewell for Hailey on Thursday night.
On Friday there will be a start for Scott and Irr as they prepare for the Olympics.
“If anyone is curious about how the athletes feel, we already knew our family wouldn’t come, so we have already received this blow, but don’t worry about the athletes, especially in a first sport, we are so excited, you know, to be able to do that at all, so I guess don’t worry about us, we’re gonna hang in there, ”Scott said.