RTL Today – Cozy atmosphere: fake cheers, empty seats: Tokyo gives insight into Covid-era Olympics


False cheers, empty seats and the sound of pounding feet: welcome to the Covid-era Tokyo Olympics, which Japan seems determined to host at all costs.

A track and field test event brought out the reality of hosting the Olympics during the pandemic, with athletes competing in a muted atmosphere and excitement hard to muster.

Kicks echoed around Tokyo’s 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium during Sunday’s track events, with crowd noises recorded reaching a crescendo as the riders neared the finish.

A musical marching band greeted the end of the race, before the runners quickly set off down the tunnel, leaving a handful of media and officials in the otherwise empty stadium.

“It’s weird to be running in a stadium without supporters,” said US sprinter Justin Gatlin after winning the men’s 100m.

“It almost feels like a time trial or an intra-team encounter.”

The track and field competition, one of a series of test events taking place in Tokyo, involved more than 400 competitors, only nine from overseas.

The atmosphere could be similar to this summer’s coronavirus-delayed Games, with overseas fans already banned and organizers are expected to decide in June on how many domestic spectators can attend, if any.

While the test events are unusual, they lend weight to the argument that the Olympics can take place despite the pandemic, which has left Tokyo and other areas under a state of emergency.

There was more noise outside the stadium on Sunday, with around 100 protesting the Olympics which polls show a majority of Japanese oppose.

“The number of Covid-19 infections is high in Tokyo and Osaka, with many severe cases,” protester Takashi Sakamoto said.

“I would like the money (for the Games) to be used instead in hospitals,” he told AFP.

On Monday, the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, was forced to postpone a trip to Japan due to the state of emergency.

And a poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily found that 59% of those polled wanted to cancel the postponed 2020 Games, which will open on July 23. The survey did not offer the possibility of an additional postponement.

A separate survey by the TBS television channel found a 37% return cancellation, while 28% want the Games to be delayed again.

– “Beyond security” –

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was forced on the defensive on Monday, insisting in parliament that he “never put the Olympics first” and that his priority remains “the life and health of the Japanese people” .

An online petition calling for the Games to be canceled has garnered more than 315,000 signatures since last Wednesday, but Games organizers insist the mega-event can run safely with strict virus rules.

“I felt beyond security,” Gatlin said. “I was tested every day, whether it was saliva or a nasal swab every morning.

“The bubble was very successful. The only time I saw the outside was when we got on the bus to go to the track.”

The rules were just as strict at the Diving World Cup the previous weekend, where more than 200 divers from nearly 50 countries were doing somersaults in silence without the presence of fans.

“We spat in the tubes a lot,” said British diver Tom Daley.

There were some frustrations, with German sporting director Lutz Buschkow describing the restrictions as slightly claustrophobic.

“The most disappointing thing is that we cannot breathe fresh air. It is a very big burden on athletes and coaches,” he told reporters.

“It would at least be nice if we had a chance to walk in the garden or the hotel parking lot … it would be nice if there was a way to fix these things.”

Gatlin said he hoped organizers would be “just a little more lenient” as the Games approach, but that’s unlikely.

In an indication of the risks, organizers reported two cases of coronavirus at the events: a dive trainer who tested positive on arrival in Japan and was quarantined, and a supportive member of a diving team. rowing that tested positive during competition.

But neither case forced the events to stop, and no additional cases were immediately detected.


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