Friday, 17 September, 2021

Troubled Tokyo Olympics set to open under Covid cloud

Troubled Tokyo Olympics set to open under Covid cloud

Popular News

The most troubled Olympics in modern history finally get under way in Tokyo on Friday, struggling to emerge from the clutches of Covid-19 after a one-year postponement following a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.

Eight years after gold ticker tape rained down as Tokyo celebrated winning the right to stage the Games, Friday's opening ceremony will take place with the Japanese capital in a state of emergency.
Fears that the global gathering of 11,000 athletes could trigger a colossal super-spreader event have prompted organisers to clamp the Games in a biosecure straitjacket.

Pandemic restrictions mean that for the first time in Olympic history, no domestic or overseas spectators will be allowed to attend the Games.

Athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict Covid-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks.

 Sightseeing trips are forbidden, meaning that for the most part, athletes will be prevented from straying outside their accommodation or competition venues.

 Public opinion has consistently found a majority of Japanese are against the games, with opinion ranging from weary indifference to outright hostility.

 The most recent poll from the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found 55 percent of respondents were against holding them this summer.

 "I'm losing interest altogether. I feel like I can't really whole-heartedly welcome the Olympics and I just don't really feel any joy in it," Tokyo resident Seira Onuma told AFP.

 Friday's opening ceremony -- traditionally a highlight of any Summer Games with the parade of nations and lighting of the Olympic flame before several thousand athletes -- will be drastically pared back.

 Fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and officials will be present at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium for the traditional extravaganza, which gets under way at 8pm local time (1100 GMT).

 Japan's Emperor Naruhito will be chief among the VIPs, along with a smattering of world leaders and senior figures including US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron, who country will host the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

 But in a sign of the antipathy towards the Olympics, several top sponsors including Toyota, Panasonic, Fujitsu and NEC will not be sending executives to the ceremony.

 "It is turning into an Olympics that cannot get understanding (from the public) in various ways," Toyota's operating officer Jun Nagata said.

 Japan's emperor meanwhile acknowledged the difficulties of laying on the Games in a pandemic, describing it as a "far from easy task" in remarks to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.