2020 Tokyo Olympics: Usain Bolt Speaks Out on Spectators Being Banned From Games

by Josh Lanier

Usain Bolt is glad he isn’t running in the Tokyo Olympics. Organizers banned fans from attending because of the coronavirus pandemic. And the eight-time gold medalist said running without the fans isn’t the same.

Bolt told Yahoo that removing the fans from the stands takes the heart out of the sport.

“I can’t compete without fans,” Bolt said. “It would be so weird and out of the ordinary. I know for people who are like me and really live for fans, it’s going to be tough for them. So, hopefully, they can remember that it’s been two years of training and dedicating their lives to this moment.”

The 34-year-old track and field legend retired from the sport in 2017.

Legendary NBC commentator Bob Costas shared a similar sentiment with Stephen Colbert. Costas told The Late Show that postponing the games another year “would have been ideal.”

“Every athlete draws some sort of adrenaline and emotion from an audience,” he said. “That’s especially true at the Olympics, which are more about emotion than most sports events are.”

The Tokyo Olympic committee put itself in a no-win situation when they decided to hold the games this year rather than postpone again until 2022. Organizers pushed the 2020 games back a year because of the coronavirus. Officials decided to stick with those plans as infection rates fell with vaccines and strict COVID-19 protocols earlier this year.

However, a new strain of the virus has reignited the pandemic in recent months, and many countries — especially poorer nations — have low vaccination rates. Several athletes, including a number of Americans, have had to drop out of the games after testing positive for the coronavirus, CNN said.

The Olympics banned fans from stadiums in an effort to keep from worsening the problem. However, some athletes — and many Japanese businesses that were counting on fans’ money — aren’t happy about the empty arenas.

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Controversy

Missteps and mistakes have marred the Tokyo Olympics so far. One of the most recent incidents was when organizers fired the creative director of the opening ceremony after a controversial comedy routine he wrote in 1998 came to light.

Organizers fired Kentaro Kobayashi just before the games after the Japanese media dug up a sketch he wrote making light of the Holocaust.

“We offer our deepest apologies for any offense and anguish this matter may have caused to the many people involved in the Olympic Games, as well as to the citizens of Japan and the world,” the organizing committee said in a statement.

Kobayashi said he regretted his “choice of words,” adding that it was in poor taste.

“I understand that my choice of words was wrong, and I regret it,” he wrote in Japanese. “I am sorry.”