Fake cheers, empty seats and the sound of pounding ft: welcome to the Covid-era Tokyo Olympics, which Japan appears decided to carry in any respect prices. An athletics check occasion introduced residence the truth of internet hosting an Olympics in the course of the pandemic, with athletes competing in a muted environment and pleasure laborious to muster. Foot-strikes echoed round Tokyo’s 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium throughout Sunday’s monitor occasions, with recorded crowd noises reaching a crescendo because the runners approached the end.
A fanfare of music greeted the tip of the race, earlier than the runners rapidly departed down the tunnel, leaving a smattering of media and officers within the in any other case empty stadium.
“It’s weird running in a stadium with no fans… It feels almost like a time trial or kind of like an intra-squad meet,” US sprinter Justin Gatlin mentioned after profitable the lads’s 100m.
The athletics meet, one in every of a collection of check occasions going down in Tokyo, concerned greater than 400 opponents, solely 9 of them from abroad.
The environment might be comparable at this summer time’s coronavirus-delayed Games, with abroad followers already barred and organisers set to resolve in June what number of home spectators can attend, if any in any respect.
Although the check occasions are uncommon, they lend weight to the argument that the Olympics could be held regardless of the pandemic, which has left Tokyo and different areas below a state of emergency.
There was extra noise exterior the stadium on Sunday, with round 100 folks protesting in opposition to an Olympics that polls present a majority of Japanese oppose.
“Covid-19 infection numbers are high in Tokyo and Osaka, with many severe cases,” mentioned protestor Takashi Sakamoto.
“I would like the money (for the Games) to be used in hospitals instead,” he advised AFP.
A brand new ballot on Monday by the Yomiuri Shimbun each day discovered 59 p.c of respondents wish to cancel the postponed 2020 Games, which can open on July 23. The ballot didn’t provide the choice of an additional postponement.
A separate survey by the TBS tv channel discovered 37 p.c again cancellation, whereas 28 p.c need the Games delayed once more.
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was pressured on the defensive on Monday, insisting in parliament he has “never put the Olympics first” and his precedence stays “the lives and health of the Japanese people.”
An on-line petition urging the Games be cancelled has gathered greater than 315,000 signatures since final Wednesday, however Games organisers insist the mega-event could be held safely with strict virus guidelines.
“I felt beyond safe… I’ve been tested every day, either saliva or nasal swab every morning,” mentioned Gatlin.
“The bubble has been very successful. The only time I’ve seen the outside is when we get on the bus to go to the track,” Gatlin added.
The guidelines had been equally strict on the Diving World Cup the earlier weekend, which featured greater than 200 divers from virtually 50 nations somersaulting in silence with no followers current.
“We’ve been spitting in tubes a lot,” mentioned British diver Tom Daley.
There had been some frustrations, with Germany’s sport director Lutz Buschkow describing the restrictions as barely claustrophobic.
“The most disappointing thing is that we can’t breathe any fresh air. That’s a really big burden for the athletes and trainers,” he advised reporters.
“It would at least be nice if we got a chance to walk in the hotel garden or car park… it would be good if there was a way to fix these things.”
Gatlin mentioned he hoped organisers could be “just a little more lenient” come the Games, however that’s unlikely.
In a sign of the dangers, organisers reported two coronavirus instances in the course of the occasions: a diving coach who examined constructive on arrival in Japan and was quarantined, and a assist member of a rowing workforce who examined constructive in the course of the competitors.
But neither case pressured a halt to occasions, and there have been no fast stories of extra instances being detected.
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