Tokyo COVID Cases Surge as Clock Ticks Down to Olympic Opening Ceremony

Cases of COVID-19 in Japan continue to escalate as foreign visitors, including First Lady Jill Biden, arrive on the eve of the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics. On Thursday, Tokyo recorded a new outbreak of 1970, the highest level since January, as the city was spinning in an emergency due to the intensification of the pandemic wave.

With just 24 hours to go before Japan can open the Games, at least 18 athletes have already fled the virus, including American tennis sensation Coco Gauff. Others, such as American Paralympian Becka Meyers, who is deaf and blind, were forced to withdraw from the competition after Japanese organizers imposed restrictions on COVID-19 when she banned her mother from coming as her personal assistant.

Organizers of the Olympics have confirmed that only 950 interested parties or invited guests, including Biden, will attend the opening ceremony. Flag bearers and teams from each country participate in the masking and are required to maintain a social distance during entry.

But this is not the only pandemic difficult for the organizers of these Games. On Thursday, Kentaro Kobayashi, the director of the Opening Ceremony, was canned after the appearance of a video of a Holocaust joke he had created in a comedy club in the ’90s. His departure comes after composer Keigo Oyamad, who attended the opening ceremony, refused to eat faeces after his interview, boasting about the abuse of a disabled boy. Earlier, creative director Hiroshi Sasaki was fired after he was called in for sexual harassment about a Japanese woman. On Thursday, Japanese media reported that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who led Japan to victory in the Games, would not attend, although it was not immediately clear why.

Even the head of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto, could not add to the enthusiasm for what many are feeling, being a gold medal-winning event. “I would like to express my deepest condolences for the problems and concerns caused to so many stakeholders, as well as the people of Tokyo and the Japanese people, when the opening ceremony is close to us,” he said.

Despite the fact that the Games are ahead, Tokyo residents have expressed anger and concern about the dangers of hosting such an international event, although most of the competitions will be held without spectators. A poll by Reuters showed that 68 per cent of respondents doubted that Olympic organizers could control coronavirus infections during the race, and 55 per cent said they were opposed to the start of the Games.

Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, made every effort to convince Emperor Naruhito of Japan that they would make every effort to prevent new infections from entering the country when the two met before the opening ceremony.

But a few days ago, Bach admitted that he had “sleepless nights” and “every day doubting” whether the Games would continue or not. In the end, he said, “canceling an already delayed event was never the way to go,” although history may well prove that this should have been the case. | Tokyo COVID Cases Surge as Clock Ticks Down to Olympic Opening Ceremony


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