Even though millions if not billions of viewers are watching the rescheduled 2020 Summer Olympics on television, some lucky individuals were slated to watch the Games in person. At one point, Tokyo 2020 organizers were expected to offer 7.8 million tickets to this year’s Olympics.
But then the COVID-19 crisis hit, the Games were pushed back a year, and officials eventually announced that most spectators would be barred from attending the events. That decision could have huge financial implications.
How much does it cost to go to the Olympics?
Tokyo Olympics organizers announced domestic ticket prices for the 2020 Olympics in July 2018. The prices were comparable to the 2012 games in London but were more expensive than the 2016 games in Rio, according to Reuters.
The least expensive Tokyo Olympic tickets were priced at less than $18 (at the exchange rate at the time). The most expensive tickets—the priciest Opening Ceremony seats—were priced at $2,760. In comparison, the priciest Opening Ceremony seats at the 2012 London games went for $2,618 at the 2018 exchange rate.
The cheapest tickets were group tickets set at the symbolic price of 2,020 yen per person ($17.96 at the time). The least expensive individual tickets were priced at 2,500 yen ($22.23), with soccer, field hockey, and marathon events among some of the most affordable Olympic spectacles.
The athletics events—including the track and field competitions—ranked among the most expensive tickets, with some going for 130,000 yen ($156.12).
Organizers also said at the time that more than half of the 2020 Olympics tickets would cost less than 8,000 yen ($71.15).
Ticket prices were higher for U.S. attendees.
Tokyo 2020 organizers reserved about 30 percent of the expected 7.8 million tickets for international spectators. They wanted the “vast majority” of tickets to go to local spectators, according to Olympics.com.
For each edition of the Olympics Games, international spectators have to purchase tickets through authorized ticket resellers. As Condé Nast Traveler reported in 2020, CoSport was the authorized ticket reseller for U.S. spectators.
CoSport offered individual event tickets ranging from $40 (for beach volleyball preliminaries) to more than $1,1000 (for track and field finals). Many tickets fell in the $100–$300 range. CoSport also offered packages bundling tickets and accommodations ranging from $4,800 per person to more than $19,000.
Spectator ban at the Tokyo Olympics could cost Japanese government entities $800 million.
On July 7, Tokyo Olympics organizers decreed, based on the COVID-19 situation, that most spectators would be barred from the Games. The following day, Hidenori Suzuki, the official overseeing the Tokyo 2020 ticket sales, grew emotional as he apologized for the ticket cancellation during a news briefing.
“We’ve done all we could to meet the expectations of those who had bought the tickets, and I feel a deep sense of pain,” he said, according to Reuters.
According to the Associated Press, the local organizing committee had projected an income of $800 million from ticket sales. Japanese government entities are on the hook for covering any shortfall.