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Tokyo gives glimpse of Covid-era Olympics as crisis looms

The head of the International Olympic Committee has pushed back a visit to Tokyo as Japan struggles to contain COVID-19. Fake cheers, empty seats, and the sound of pounding feet: welcome to the COVID-era Tokyo Olympics, which Japan seems determined to hold at all costs.

An athletics test event brought home the reality of hosting an Olympics during the pandemic, with athletes competing in a muted atmosphere and excitement hard to muster.

Foot-strikes echoed around Tokyo’s 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium during track events, with recorded crowd noises reaching a crescendo as the runners approached the finish.

A fanfare of music greeted the end of the race before the runners quickly departed down the tunnel, leaving a smattering of media and officials in the otherwise empty stadium.

“It’s weird running in a stadium with no fans,” US sprinter Justin Gatlin said after winning the men’s 100m.

It feels almost like a time trial or kind of like an intra-squad meet.

The athletics meet, one of a series of test events in Tokyo, involved more than 400 competitors, only nine of them from overseas. The atmosphere could be similar at this year’s coronavirus-delayed Games, with overseas fans already barred and organisers set to decide in June how many domestic spectators can attend, if any at all. Although the test events are unusual, they lend weight to the argument that the Olympics can be held despite the pandemic, which has left Tokyo and other areas under a state of emergency.

There was more noise outside the stadium, with around 100 people protesting against an Olympics that polls show a majority of Japanese oppose. “COVID-19 infection numbers are high in Tokyo and Osaka, with many severe cases,” said protester Takashi Sakamoto.

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

On Monday, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach was forced to postpone a trip to Japan over the state of emergency. And a poll by the Yomiuri Shimbun daily found 59 per cent of respondents want to cancel the postponed 2020 Games, which will open on July 23. The poll did not offer the option of a further postponement. A separate survey by the TBS television channel found 37 per cent back cancellation, while 28 per cent want the Games delayed again.

Molly Aronson

Molly Aronson is a 26-year-old government politician who enjoys bowling, running and jigsaw puzzles. She is creative and exciting, but can also be very greedy and a bit greedy.She is an australian Christian who defines herself as straight. She has a post-graduate degree in philosophy, politics and economics. She is allergic to grasshoppers.

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