Tokyo Olympics: Athletes adjust to Games without spectators during state of emergency

Sports bodies and athletes have downplayed the potential impact on performances, after Tokyo Olympic organisers banned spectators during a COVID-19 state of emergency in the Japanese capital.

NZ team psychologist Kylie Wilson admits the decision is disappointing for Kiwi athletes, but insists they have become used to performing without fans, since the coronavirus pandemic began in early 2020.

"Our athletes have generally prepared with no spectators in mind," says Wilson. "It was a specific part of their process around these Olympic Games.

"Many of our team have been competing international in front of empty stadiums, and we've seen athletes recording personal bests without spectators and learning not to rely on the crowd to deliver their best performances."

With the Games due to begin on July 21, many of the NZ team have been vaccinated and are already en route to Tokyo.

"It is an extremely challenging time to be hosting an Olympic Games and we completely agree that the health and wellbeing of the Japanese public must be protected," says NZ Olympic Committee chief executive Kereyn Smith.

"Our team will be doing our bit and following all the necessary precautions to ensure we stay safe and to ensure there's no added risk to Japanese public health."

Those sentiments have been echoed by team management and athletes around the world.

American 100m hurdles world recordholder Kendra Harrison says not having fans present would make little difference in her bid for her first Olympic medal.

"In the midst of just being lined up with the best in the world, you are not really worried about who is in the stands," Harrison tells Kentucky's Spectrum News 1.

"You are just worried about going out and competing to the best of their abilities."

International Equestrian Federation (FEI) president Ingmar De Vos says he respects and understands the organisers' decision.

"It is unfortunate that there will not be any spectators in Tokyo, but it is of the utmost importance that the [Olympics] take place and that the world's best athletes come together following years of preparation for this important moment," he says.

"While the atmosphere will be very different, the athletes will be 100 percent focused on what they need to do to be successful and achieve their goals."

Veteran Australian swimming coach Michael Bohl says the most successful Olympians are those who are able to adapt to changing conditions most quickly.

"If the meet was starting tomorrow and it happened, it might have been a bit concerning," Bohl says. "But we have got two weeks for everything to resonate and I think it will be fine."

One noticeable exception to the sentiment was Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios, who has pulled out of the Games, because "the thought of playing in front of empty stands just doesn't sit right with me".