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2020 Olympics: No international fans will be at games this year

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The Japanese government has determined that it’s too dangerous to bring in fans from all over the world, which is the right call.

USA v Japan: Group E - FIBA World Cup 2019
Rui Hachimura is one of at least two Washington basketball players who are making the Olympic teams.
Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

It wasn’t long ago when we openly wondered whether the 2020 Olympics in Japan could go on at all. But thankfully, it appears that the games will happen after all from July 23 to Aug. 8. The same applies for the Paralympic Games from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

That said, the Olympics will not have the fanfare we typically see every four years, where people from all over the world can visit the host country and watch various sports matches from wrestling to athletics (track), to field hockey and basketball.

That’s because the Japanese government determined today that international fans will not be allowed to attend festivities this year, citing the coronavirus pandemic. The International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee issued a statement that “they fully respect and accept this conclusion.”

At this time, it appears that Japanese fans will be permitted to attend, though no specifics on attendance limits, etc. are out at this time.

None of this is a surprise, but it’s the right call. Coronavirus cases are spiking up in different parts of the world at different times. Cases are rising in the European Union and South Asia are rising, in particular with more contagious variants like the one originally found in the United Kingdom.

In the United States, cases are declining, though plateauing. That’s because of a combination of the aforementioned UK variant spreading her and a highly successful vaccination effort on highly vulnerable populations.

While the UK variant will be the most dominant COVID-19 variety here, the US has among the highest rates of fully vaccinated people in the world at about 13 percent. That’s not at Israel’s world-leading rate of 51 percent of their population getting fully vaccinated. But again, the US is a much bigger country and we’re well ahead of nearly the entire world, including every EU country from Ireland to Latvia and everywhere in between in this respect.

The good news with the coronavirus is that we should be past the worst of the pandemic as more people get vaccines in the coming weeks.

And it will be cool to watch Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura represent the host nation this summer on the world stage whether it’s the opening ceremonies or in a competitive match with a super-home court advantage. And we’ll also root for Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman as Belgium makes its first appearance ever in women’s basketball. She’d probably be one of the most popular players among the athletes if she’s open to returning this WNBA season since she’s an unrestricted free agent.

As for Wizards and Mystics players on Team USA, though Elena Delle Donne hasn’t been in training camps for their team recently, likely because to rest her back, there will be a spot for her as long as she says “I’m in.” And on the men’s team, it’s possible Bradley Beal and/or Russell Westbrook make it, but things will look unclear until we see which teams make the NBA Conference Finals at a minimum since the playoffs will run to July.