After a year’s delay and only weeks away, the Tokyo Olympics will be without fans after Japan declared a state of emergency in regards to the coronavirus.
Olympic officials had already banned international spectators weeks before, but Thursday’s news means even those who live in Japan will not be able to attend.
“We had already known for a while that our family couldn’t come, and so this news is not really surprising I guess I’d say,” said Tom Scott, an Olympic athlete from North Texas.
Scott, 31, is from DFW and attended Dallas Jesuit. He’s been training at the Academy of Classical Karate since he was 8-years old and is currently a karate instructor at St. Mark’s Catholic School in Plano.
He is representing Team USA in Kumite (fighting), so is Brian Irr, 32, who is also from the Plano Dojo.
This is the first Olympics to debut karate.
Scott said having a crowd can be energizing, but there also may be a benefit from having no fans in the stands.
“It’s an exciting environment but honestly without that it will allow the athletes to keep a cool level head as well and might even the playing field, so I am excited from that aspect,” said Scott. “Well, we didn’t want our Japanese opponents to have an advantage over us right, so we’ll find a bright side of it.”
Having a live audience in any arena adds an atmosphere that many athletes feed off of in sports, especially in events like swimming and diving.
“It’s going to be weird, it’s going to be different with no spectators there but at least we have Olympics,” said Edgar Hernandez who lives in Southlake.
Before all the travel bans to the Olympics, he had planned on traveling to Tokyo to support Hailey Hernandez, the 18-year-old diver from Southlake who recently earned her spot on Team USA.
“We are heartbroken. I was ready to start looking for flight tickets and then I saw no spectators allowed, so I guess just watch it on TV,” said Hernandez.
Edgar, who is not related to Hailey, said he’s known the Olympic athlete since she was a freshman because she and his son were on the same swim team at Southlake Carrol High School. He said since both of their families have the same last name, the parents joke and call each other cousins.
“We wish Hailey the best and we will be with her in spirit and cheering for her, I guess yelling for her at the television,” said Edgar whose family is helping host a send-off for Hailey Thursday evening.
On Friday there will be a send-off for Scott and Irr as they get ready to go to the Olympics.
“If anyone is curious about how the athletes are feeling, we already knew our family wasn’t going to come, so we’ve already been dealt that blow but don’t worry about the athletes, especially in a debut sport, we are so excited you know, to get to do this at all, so I guess, don’t worry about us, we’ll hang in there,” said Scott.