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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Limited VIPs To Attend Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

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Covid-19 is increasingly turning very ugly and has prompted organisers of the Tokyo Olympics to slash attendence at the opening ceremony.

Japanese media reported Wednesday that the curtain-raiser at the 68,000-seat main stadium on 23 July will be watched only by people connected to sponsors, along with diplomats and other special guests, with the number sharply reduced from an initial estimate of 10,000, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper said on Tuesday, citing multiple unidentified sources.

In addition, Olympic competitions at large venues and those scheduled for after 9pm will be held without spectators to discourage people from spending time in the capital after the events have ended.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee has already banned overseas spectators and set a cap on domestic spectators of 10,000 per venue, or 50% of capacity.

The cap could be lowered, however, if Tokyo is still covered by quasi-emergency virus measures by the time the Games open – an increasingly likely prospect as cases continue to rise in the capital.

Organisers and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have pushed ahead with the Games despite widespread public opposition and warnings from medical experts that the arrival of tens of thousands of athletes, coaches, officials and journalists risks triggering the spread of Covid-19 in Japan, where just 13.8% of people are fully vaccinated.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, will meet Japanese government and Olympic officials to discuss attendance caps on Thursday, the same day the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, is expected to extend the quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo beyond its original end date of 11 July.

The measures require bars and restaurants to stop serving alcohol at 7pm and to close an hour later.

With packed venues an impossibility, Suga was keen to allow at least some spectators to watch live sport, but has said that a ban remains an option.

Members of his Liberal Democratic party are said to favour a ban after they fared badly in Sunday’s Tokyo metropolitan assembly elections, partly due to voter anger over the government’s handling of the pandemic.

“We must stay on high alert,” Suga told reporters this month after infections began rising again in Tokyo, adding that “having no spectators is a possibility”.

Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organising committee, agreed. “It’s not that we are determined to have spectators regardless of the situation,” she said last week.

Another symbolically important precursor to the sporting action will also undergo a drastic remake due to virus concerns.

The Olympic torch relay, set to reach Tokyo on Friday and parade through the centre of the city from 17 July until the opening ceremony, will be moved off public roads for the entire period and replaced with torch-lighting ceremonies closed to the public, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

In addition, the governor of Hokkaido, Naomichi Suzuki, has asked Tokyo 2020 organisers to consider banning roadside spectators from the marathon and race walk events.

Suzuki has asked committee officials to have strict virus prevention measures in place when the events are held in the island’s biggest city, Sapporo, from 5-8 August, according to the Kyodo news agency.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Olympic Athletes Taking Knee For Black Lives Matter

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Athletes from across the globe taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, such Athlete protest was once forbidden at the Olympics.

Women’s soccer players from Great Britain and Chile kicked off the games by taking a knee to protest the racial discrimination that Black players on England’s national team faced after losing the UEFA European Championship earlier this month.

The Japanese women’s soccer team later did the same, a rare act of protest by a Japanese team. Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado took a knee and put her first in the air after finishing her floor routine on Sunday.

“This global stage with a global audience is a rare opportunity,” said Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and a professor at the University of Central Florida.

The pickup in demonstrations follows the International Olympic Committee’s recent decision to relax decades-old restrictions on athlete expression meant to maintain neutrality at the games.

The amended guidelines in Rule 50 of the Olympic charter now allow athletes to engage in demonstrations at select times and sites as long as those actions do not constitute or signal “discrimination, hatred, hostility or the potential for violence.”

The latest actions highlight a longtime paradox for athletes: They are held up as heroes until they use their platforms to make political statements.

That has started to change thanks to National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was sidelined from his job after taking a knee to protest police brutality during the U.S. national anthem at a 2016 game.

But even now, athletes aren’t immune to the consequences of speaking out. American gymnastics star Simone Biles and Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka both faced criticism for bringing mental health to the fore during this year’s Olympic games.

Osaka also took a thrashing on social media after losing a match at the Olympics on Tuesday, with some questioning why she represented Japan as the final torchbearer in the games’ opening ceremony.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

China Surprises US, Australia in Women’s 4×200-Meter Relay

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China surprised the U.S. and Australia with a world-record performance in the women’s 4×200-meter freestyle relay on Thursday.

Katie Ledecky took the anchor leg for the Americans in third place, nearly 2 seconds behind the Chinese and also trailing the Aussies.

Ledecky passed Australia’s Leah Neale and closed the gap significant on China’s Li Bingjie, but couldn’t quite catch her at the end.

Li touched in 7 minutes, 40.33 seconds, denying both Ledecky and Ariarne Titmus another gold medal.

After winning both the 200 and 400 free individual titles, Titmus led off for Australia in the relay.

The Americans claimed silver in 7:40.73, while Australia took the bronze in 7:41.29.

It was the first swimming world record of the Tokyo Games — in fact, all three medalists broke the previous mark of 7:41.50 set by the Aussies at the 2019 world championships.

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TOKYO OLYMPICS 2020

Olympic Medalists To Remove Masks On Podium

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Olympic medalists have been allowed to remove masks from their faces for about 30 seconds while on the podium for photographs.

The International Olympic Committee said Sunday the relaxation of the rule was decided on condition that medalists are physically distanced, while they are still required to wear masks when they take a group photo at the victory ceremony.

The IOC said the change will “allow athletes to have an image for the media that captures their faces and their emotions during a unique moment in their sporting career, as well as to celebrate the achievements of all the medalists together.”

The relaxed “playbook” protocols took effect Sunday and “will continue to be put into practice in all venues over the coming days.”

Earlier in the day, IOC spokesman Mark Adams had warned athletes to keep their masks on even while celebrating after winning medals.

“It’s not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have,” he said at a news conference. “It’s really in our own interest, the interest of everyone, and the interest of a safe and secure games that we do obey these rules.”

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