Tokyo Closes ‘Historic’ Paralympics With Colourful Ceremony

Performers dance during the closing ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on September 5, 2021. Philip FONG / AFP

 

Tokyo bid a colourful farewell to the paralympics on Sunday after 12 days of stereotype-defying, record-shattering performances despite a year-long pandemic delay.

International Paralympic Committee chief Andrew Parsons declared the Games closed on a cool night in the Olympic Stadium, saying they had “not just been historic, they’ve been fantastic”.

It was a games like no other, postponed a year because of the pandemic and dogged by difficulties and low public support in the build-up.

But the action did not disappoint when it got underway, with a record 86 teams winning medals and 62 claiming at least one gold.

Parsons said the Games had “opened the door”, and it was “time for us all to play our part to break down the barriers”.

“During our carnival of sport, we have celebrated difference, exhibited the best of humanity and shown unity in diversity,” he said.

The closing ceremony, with fans locked out over virus fears but with roughly 2,000 athletes and officials in attendance, took “harmonious cacophony” as its theme.

It featured a riot of neon-clad breakdancers, unicycling butterflies and strutting stilt-walkers, using materials recycled from the Olympic opening ceremony for its vivid props.

Among the athletes carrying their nations’ flags were Afghanistan’s Hossain Rasouli and Zakia Khudadadi, who arrived in Tokyo with the Games already in progress after being evacuated from Taliban-controlled Kabul.

The pair, wearing red and green team tracksuits, handed the flag over to a volunteer before joining other athletes in helping to decorate a replica of Tokyo’s Skytree tower.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike handed the Paralympic flag over to Parsons, who passed it on to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, representing the 2024 hosts.

Parsons then announced the end of the Games, bringing the curtain down after 539 gold medals across 22 sports, contested almost entirely behind closed doors because of the virus.

“I don’t want to do this, but the time has come for me to declare the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games closed,” he said.

China finished on top of the medal table with 207, including 96 golds, followed by Britain, the United States and the Russian team.

Charismatic Figures

Sarah Storey

 

Highlights included cycling legend Sarah Storey becoming Britain’s most successful Paralympian with her 17th gold medal, 29 years after her first.

Charismatic figures like Italian wheelchair fencer Beatrice “Bebe” Vio and German long jumper Markus Rehm wowed TV audiences.

 

Beatrice “Bebe” Vio

 

And Japanese wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kunieda delighted the home crowd on the penultimate day by claiming one of his country’s 13 gold medals.

Shingo Kunieda

 

There were also impressive performances from Britain’s wheelchair rugby team, who won their first-ever gold, while badminton and taekwondo made their Paralympic debuts.

The Games featured 163 delegations — one fewer than the London 2012 record, despite several teams withdrawing because of pandemic difficulties.

The final day’s action began with the early morning marathon events, with Swiss wheelchair master Marcel Hug defending his T54 crown.

“Silver bullet” Hug opened up an early gap on the field, and moved away from silver medallist Zhang Yong over the last two uphill kilometres.

“I don’t know how to feel. I’m just tired. Empty,” said Hug, who won the sixth Paralympic gold of his career in a time of 1hr 24min 2sec.

In the women’s T54 marathon, Australian Madison de Rozario clung on to finish ahead of Swiss great Manuela Schaer, winning the gold by just one second.

“That was the longest 500 metres of my life,” de Rozario told reporters after finishing in a Paralympic record of 1:38.11.

“That finish line couldn’t have come quick enough.”

Organisers had urged local residents to stay home and watch the action on TV, but sweet shop owner Atsushi Nishimura told AFP in Tokyo’s Asakusa district that he was glad he saw it live.

“We could have enjoyed the Olympics and Paralympics differently if they weren’t during a pandemic, but I think it was good for us that we could host the events,” he said

Tokyo Paralympics: Oluwafemiayo Wins Third Gold For Nigeria

The Nigerian attributes her win to the “power of God”. Photo: Paralympics.

 

Nigeria’s medal haul at the Tokyo Paralympics on Monday increased to five  – all from powerlifting – after Folashade Oluwafemiayo claimed gold in the women’s 86kg category. 

The 32-year-old becomes the third Nigerian athlete to win gold in the competition, following in the footsteps of Tijani Latifat and Bose Omolayo. 

She also set a new Paralympics record after she lifted 152kg in the Japanese capital, breaking the former world record (151kg) she set on March 28 in Manchester.

In Tokyo, China’s Zheng Feifei took the silver medal with a 139kg lift, as Sugden Loiuse of Great Britain won bronze following a 131kg lift. 

Nigeria also has two bronze medals from powerlifting.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Powerlifter Latifat Tijani Wins Gold At Tokyo Paralympics

READ ALSO: I Never Settled For Less, Says Ese Brume After Winning Long Jump Bronze In Tokyo

An elated Oluwafemiayo who described her feat at the Games as “great”,  said she owed it to God. 

“I feel very, very great,” Oluwafemiayo told the Paralympics website. “I thank God because it was God all the way; not by my own power, but by the power of God.

“He was giving me grace, and I give Him the admiration for standing right behind me. I’ve been asking for this from God, and He gave it to me.”

 

 

I Never Settled For Less, Says Ese Brume After Winning Long Jump Bronze In Tokyo

Nigeria's Ese Brume reacts as she competes in the women's long jump final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021. Javier SORIANO / AFP
Nigeria’s Ese Brume reacts as she competes in the women’s long jump final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on August 3, 2021.
Javier SORIANO / AFP

 

African Record holder in the women’s Long Jump Ese Brume is over the moon after winning Nigeria’s first Athletics medal since 2008, taking Bronze with her best leap of 6.97m in a highly competitive final at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Tuesday. 

Speaking with members of the press after her spectacular feat, Brume, who finished 3rd behind Germany’s Malaika Mihambo and USA’s Brittney Reese stated that the colour of her medal doesn’t really matter as she is just excited at having finished on the podium.

[READ ALSO]: Tokyo Olympics: Ese Brume Wins Nigeria’s First Medal

The Doha 2019 Bronze medallist said, ‘ I’m just excited, I’m grateful. I’m super happy that I was able to make it to the Top 3. I really want to thank God. I can’t contain my joy; it doesn’t matter the medal; I’m just super happy I made Top 3.”

When asked what the medal means to her, she said:

“This medal means that God is alive, Jesus is alive. It has been a great season even though I got injured in April, but I never settled for less. I never looked at the situation but I kept on pushing and my coach kept on pushing and told me ‘Ese you can do it’. Thank God I’m here today”.

Back in May, the three-time African Champion soared to a World Lead and African Record of 7.17m and she says that superlative feat boosted her confidence coming to Tokyo:

“Setting the African Record boosted my confidence because then my injury was still fresh yet I was able to set that record and a Personal Best, so I thought to myself that yes I could do it and my coach thought same as well, so we never settled for less”, she added.

Brume also offered words of encouragement to her teammates that were unable to compete at the Games.

She said: “And to those who were here but could not compete, never settle for less. God is with you. It is not over until it is over. You may not have competed here today but God has a better future ahead for you.”

Brume is expected to compete in the women’s 4x100m which gets underway on August 5th.

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs Wins First Post-Bolt Olympic 100m Gold

 

Italy’s Lamont Marcell Jacobs outshone a field of unusual suspects to claim a shock Olympic gold in the men’s 100 metres on Sunday, breaking retired Jamaican star Usain Bolt’s 13-year hold on the blue riband event.

Jacobs, 26, timed a European record of 9.80 seconds, with American Fred Kerley taking silver in 9.84sec in one of the most understated major championship 100m races of recent times.

Canada’s Andre de Grasse, a bronze medallist at the 2016 Rio Games, repeated the feat in 9.89sec.

The athletes were introduced in a dramatic light show — the stadium floodlights were shut off and 12 projectors cast 3D images of the world, zooming in to the Tokyo skyline, and then the name of each sprinter.

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Enoch Adegoke Storms Into 100m Final At #Tokyo2020

The lights came back on, swiftly followed by a horrendous false start for Zharnel Hughes in lane four, the Anguilla-born Briton not even bothering to question his disqualification.

Dressed in light blue singlet and lycra shorts, the US-born Jacobs, in lane three, made a good start, held his nerve through the drive phase, and powered through to the line.

Jacobs joyously ran into the arms of Italian teammate Gianmarco Tamberi, who had just shared gold in the men’s high jump and was waiting at the finish line.

The race, run in stifling temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit), had a distinctly underwhelming build-up and feel to it as hot favourite Trayvon Bromell bombed out of the semi-finals in which China’s Su Bingtian and Jacobs unexpectedly set Asian and European records respectively.

The Tokyo Olympics are the first since Athens in 2004 to take place without Bolt, who went on to win three consecutive Olympic 100m titles in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, as well as three straight 200m crowns.

And for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Games, there was no Jamaican in the final, Bolt’s long-time former teammate Yohan Blake failing to qualify from his semi-final.

The field was instead filled with a raft of relatively unknown sprinters, with Jacobs’ main claim to fame a European 60m indoor title earlier this year.

The 100m in Tokyo, and the circus around it, has arguably been a pale imitation of Bolt’s glory years during which the charismatic Jamaican not only dominated the sprints but also captivated a truly global audience.

While the spectacle that Bolt brought to the blue riband event has been missing since his retirement in 2017, so also has been the emergence of a new generation of sprinting hopes.

Many have been lauded as the athlete to fill Bolt’s spikes, but no one has yet lived up to the considerable weight of expectation.

Added to that, the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Tokyo had no cheering fans because of coronavirus restrictions in the Japanese capital.

Instead, there were sparse pockets of athletes and team officials who did their best to create something of an atmosphere at what is normally one of the most widely anticipated events of the entire Games, commanding a huge worldwide television audience.

AFP

NBBF Boss Thankful To D’Tigers For Representing Nigeria “Very Well”

 

Musa Kidda, the caretaker president of the Nigerian Basketball Federation, has expressed his gratitude to the men’s national basketball team for representing Nigeria “very well” at the ongoing Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

D’Tigers, on Saturday, lost 80-71 to Italy to crash out of the men’s basketball event of the Tokyo Olympics.

They had lost earlier in the tournament to Australia and Germany, but the performance in general from D’Tigers, a team comprised entirely of players making their debut at the Olympics, gives cause to hope of greater things to come from the African champions.

“D’Tigers, it’s been such a long journey in such a short time,” began a message from the NBBF boss Kidda. “You have all done very well as athletes, coaches, and technical staff within the context of challenges we had to overcome.

“As President of NBBF, I would like to personally say thanks to all of you for representing your country Nigeria very well and assure you that Nigeria is proud of your efforts and staying power as a group.”

READ ALSO: Nigeria’s Mixed 4x400m Team Excited By African Record Set At Olympics Debut In Tokyo

He added: “We need to stay together and continue building on what we have done here as African representatives. We shall definitely do better as we are stronger. Stay safe and strong guys.”

In a similar vein, the Honourable Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, has expressed his thanks and appreciation to the players and technical crew of Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team after the team’s campaign at the Olympic Games came to an end on Saturday.

“My thanks and appreciations go to the players and coaching staff of the D’Tigers,” said the Minister. “They represented Nigeria impressively and we thank them for their resilience, efforts, and their patriotic commitment.”

D’Tigers lost 80-71 to Italy to crash out of the men’s basketball event of the Tokyo Olympics but their performances before and during the Olympics give room for many to be optimistic about the future of the team led by United States-born coach Mike Brown.

D’Tigers comprised entirely of players making their debut at the Olympics, while some were participating in an international championship for the first time.

“They came and gave a good account of themselves to the world that Nigeria will compete amongst the best basketball nations,” continued the Minister. “And to Mike Brown and the coaching staff, thank you for building this team and your faith in the team.”

He added: “You have performed tremendously well and Nigerians thank you sincerely.”

Nigeria’s Mixed 4x400m Team Excited By African Record Set At Olympics Debut In Tokyo

 

Although they would have been hoping to at least make the final of their event at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics, Nigeria’s Mixed 4x400m quartet comprising Emmanuel Ojeli, Imaobong Nse Uko, Samson Nathaniel, and Patience Okon-George will leave the competition with their heads held high after storming to a new African Record of 3:13.60 to finish 5th in their semi-final race.

Speaking after the race, Okon-George revealed that the squad is consoled by the African Record they set while competing at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

She said, “The last race we ran back in June was 3:14.09 and the 3:13.60 we ran today is good. We are happy with the new African Record. It was not easy running with 43second runners on the anchor leg. Now that we haven’t made it to the final, I’m just going to be focused and get ready for the 400m. I think I’m good to go”.

READ ALSO: Tokyo Olympics: Nigeria’s Mixed Relay Team Crash Out, Set New African Record

Teammate Emmanuel Ojeli also revelled in the fact that the quartet made history by becoming the first African team to qualify for and compete at the Olympics.

“We have been trying so hard to qualify in the 4x400m men and women so when we heard that the Mixed Relays was going to hold, we just needed to put ourselves together to qualify for the event. We are the first African team to qualify for the event at the Olympics and ran an African Record as well”, he said.

The quartet will now set its sights towards qualifying for next year’s World Championships in Oregon.

Olympic Athletes Infected As Covid Travel Woe Hits Europe

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Two athletes became the first to test positive for the coronavirus in the Tokyo Olympic Village, officials said Sunday, as new border rules in Europe caused last-minute travel frustration.

Less than a week before the Olympics is due to begin, the cases will heighten concerns over the event.

Organisers have described the Games as the world’s “most restrictive sports event”, but it faces opposition in Japan over fears it will bring new infections to a country already battling a surge.

A daily tally of new cases revealed two athletes tested positive in the Village and one elsewhere. They come a day after an unidentified person, who was not a competitor, became the first case in the village.

Britain is also facing a backlash over its decision to exclude France from its new looser entry policies — vaccinated returning UK residents will still have to quarantine for 10 days, unlike in other “amber” countries.

“I’m a doctor so I understand the health issues very well, but this doesn’t make any sense,” said Maud Lemoine, a London-based doctor who is visiting France.

And France’s government drew ire after announcing that unvaccinated visitors from Britain and several other European countries must show a negative Covid test taken within 24 hours of departure rather than 48 or 72 hours, as was the case previously.

The interior ministry said almost 114,000 demonstrators gathered across France on Saturday to protest against the government’s handling of the pandemic and continued restrictions on everyday life.

“It’s not that we think the Earth is flat, but we don’t know the long-term effects of these vaccines cobbled together in a hurry,” care assistant Rita, 39, said at a march in the city of Montpellier.

Elsewhere in Europe, Greek officials imposed curfews on the party island of Mykonos and Spanish authorities did likewise in Barcelona and other cities in the northeastern Catalonia region.

EU jabs overtake US

European governments are facing an uphill battle, with the EU’s disease prevention agency warning that infections could rise fivefold across the bloc by August 1.

But the continent also had something to celebrate, with the proportion of people vaccinated topping the US figure for the first time.

Around 55.5 percent have now had a first dose following a sluggish start, compared with 55.4 across the Atlantic.

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said the achievement validated the EU’s strategy of “remaining open and exporting half of our production to 100+ countries”, vaunting the bloc’s “solidarity” compared with other vaccine makers.

And in Britain, where most of the adult population has now had two jabs, the government is preparing to ease most restrictions.

Quarantine for vaccinated Britons returning from “amber” list countries is due to end on Monday but at the last minute the government decided to retain the status quo for France because of the “persistent presence” of the Beta variant, first identified in South Africa.

While the rule applies only to England for now, devolved governments in Scotland and Wales indicated they were likely to follow suit.

The new looser regime in England, with mask requirements among the rules to be dropped, comes as the UK recorded more than 50,000 cases in a day on Friday and the government said that rate could double in the coming weeks.

However, officials said the high vaccination rate should prevent a spike in deaths and serious illness.

Hajj joy

Among those testing positive was Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who announced on Saturday he had contracted the disease and was isolating.

“I’m grateful that I’ve had two jabs of the vaccine. And so far, my symptoms are very mild,” Javid said via Twitter.

With cases surging, critics say the reopening is a reckless gamble.

“This is a threat not just to England but to the whole world — particularly low- and middle-income countries who have very limited access to vaccines,” a group of international scientists said in a joint statement on Friday.

One poorer country experiencing an infection surge is Senegal, whose national bus operator announced Saturday it would suspend intercity transport.

The announcement comes after the country of 16 million logged a record — 1,366 — of new coronavirus cases on Saturday, almost double the daily record of 733 set on Wednesday.

A new single-day record was also set in Thailand, which had more than 11,300 new infections Sunday, bringing the kingdom’s cumulative cases to more than 400,000. Saturday also saw the single-day death toll reach 141 — a new high.

Three more provinces will be placed under severe restrictions — including a night-time curfew and a ban on gatherings of more than five — that already cover Bangkok and the southern provinces.

Saudi Arabia is allowing crowds to gather for the second downsized hajj since the start of the pandemic.

The kingdom is allowing only 60,000 fully vaccinated residents to take part — a fraction of the pre-pandemic number — as it seeks to repeat last year’s success that saw no virus outbreak during the five-day ritual.

Among the chosen ones this year was Ameen, a 58-year-old Indian oil contractor who was picked for the ritual along with his wife and three adult children.

“We are overjoyed,” said Ameen. “So many of our friends and relatives were rejected.”

Japan To Impose COVID-19 Emergency In Tokyo During Olympics

A woman stands in front of the Olympic Rings at dusk in Yokohama on July 2, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP)

 

The Japanese government plans to impose a virus state of emergency in Tokyo during the Olympics, reports said Wednesday, meaning spectators could be barred from venues.

The emergency measures — less strict than a blanket lockdown — will be in force until August 22, several Japanese media outlets reported, following a rise in cases less than three weeks before the Games begin.

“The government decided to declare the fourth state of emergency for Tokyo and communicated the decision to the ruling parties,” public broadcaster NHK said.

Kyodo News, citing a senior government official, said it was now likely the Olympics would be held behind closed doors.

The pandemic-postponed 2020 Games will take place under strict anti-infection rules, with overseas fans already banned.

Organisers set a limit last month of 10,000 fans, or half of each venue’s capacity, but recently warned that a fully closed-door Games remained an option as the virus situation worsens.

Japan’s Covid-19 outbreak has not been as severe as in some countries, with around 14,800 deaths, but experts say another wave could stretch medical services as the Games begin.

Participants have already begun arriving in Japan, with 11,000 Olympic athletes from around 200 countries set to take part.

AFP

Gatlin Eyes Gold At Tokyo Olympics

Justin Gatlin of the US prepares to compete in a heat of the men’s 100m during an athletics test event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the National Stadium in Tokyo on May 9, 2021.  AFP

 

Veteran US sprinter Justin Gatlin set his sights on winning another Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games on Sunday — then refused to rule out continuing his career into his 40s.

The 39-year-old will become the oldest man ever to win an Olympic track medal if he makes the podium at this summer’s coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Games.

And with former archrival Usain Bolt now retired and reigning world 100m world champion Christian Coleman banned from the Tokyo Games for missing three doping tests, Gatlin said he believes he has a realistic chance.

“I hope so — That’s why I’m still here,” he said after competing at a test event held behind closed doors at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.

“I love making Olympic teams, but I’m not in it for the free trip. I want to be able to work hard and get on top of that podium again at some point, and I hope this year is that year for me.”

Gatlin won 100m gold in Athens in 2004 but was forced to miss the 2008 Games because of a suspension for drug offenses.

He won bronze in 2012 and silver four years later, and said Sunday that Tokyo would be his “fourth and last Olympics” if he makes the US team.

But he quickly changed tack when asked if he would definitely hang up his spikes this summer.

“I’m saying it right now, but obviously the way my career’s going, I don’t know,” he said.

“I’m happy with where I’m at. I’m still hungry for competition, so I won’t say never.”

Gatlin won Sunday’s 100m race in a time of 10.24sec, and said he was satisfied with his form as he looks ahead to next month’s US trials.

But he conceded that the Games would “definitely be different” with strict virus countermeasures in place, and that “a lot of athletes are not going to be happy” with rules restricting their movement.

“I just miss going out — going to local dineries and eating the local food,” he said.

“Hopefully by the time the Olympics come around, it will be just a little more lenient about where we can go.”

Sunday’s event was held behind closed doors, with Tokyo currently under a virus state of emergency, and Gatlin described the atmosphere inside the cavernous stadium as “weird”.

Olympics organisers will decide next month how many — if any — fans can attend the Games, and Gatlin believes athletes will have to “bring their own energy to the track”.

“For all the athletes that are going to come, they have to come with their focus on level 10,” he said.

The Tokyo Games will be the first Olympics since Gatlin won gold in 2004 not to feature three-time 100m champion Bolt.

But Gatlin is taking nothing for granted with his former rival now out of the picture.

“Before, it was Usain and me going head to head and knowing exactly what was going to happen,” he said.

“Now, you’ve got to keep your head on swivel, because anybody can come up.”

Aruna Moves Attention To Tokyo Olympics Qualifying Tournament

File photo of Aruna Quadri in action.

 

 

Quadri Aruna will get a chance to secure his place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when the World Singles Qualification Tournament (WSQT) begins at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Doha, Qatar.

73 men and 60 women will be aiming for the nine slots available at the four-day tournament which begins on Sunday, March 14 to 17.

Aruna who is one of the listed players and among the top seeds had used the WTT Contender Series and Star Contender as warm-ups for the qualification and he will be hoping to pick one of the four slots for grab in the men’s singles.

With a quarterfinal finish at the WTT Contender Series and a Round 16 finish at the WTT Star Contender, the Nigerian will be hoping to join the league of elite players competing at the Tokyo games.

“I am happy that after resting for some days following the injury I sustained while playing for my club in the German Bundesliga, I was able to perform well at the WTT Tournaments. I did not train up to 10 days before heading to the competition and that means I was no even at my full best. I am optimistic that I can be part of the four players that will make it to Tokyo from the qualifiers,” he said.

Kenya, Congo Brazzaville and Algeria are among the African countries competing in the qualifying tournament for Tokyo 2020 in Qatar.

According to International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), in the men’s singles qualification, three spots will be available for qualification in stage one while entries will be split into three knockout rounds, starting from the round of 32, with the winner of each knockout round qualifying for the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

The losing finalist and semi-finalist from each of the three knockouts will then proceed to stage two where one final spot is available. The losing finalist and semi-finalists from each of the three knockout rounds will then be drawn into one final knockout round where the winner will eventually qualify for the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

For the women’s singles, four spots are available for qualification in stage one. Entries will be split into four knockouts starting from the round of 16, with the winner of each knockout qualifying for the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

The losing finalist from each of the four knockouts will proceed to stage two where one final spot is at stake. The losing finalist from each of the four knockouts will be drawn into one final knockout where the winner will qualify for the singles event at the Tokyo Olympics.

Japan Denies Cancelling Olympics

The Olympic Rings are pictured in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne on March 21, 2020, as doubts increase over whether Tokyo can safely host the summer Games amid the spread of the COVID-19. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

Japan dismissed a report claiming officials see cancelling the Tokyo Olympics as inevitable on Friday, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he was “determined” to hold the Games.

Deputy government spokesman Manabu Sakai there was “no truth” to the report in The Times, which quoted an unnamed ruling coalition source as saying “the consensus is that it’s too difficult” to hold the Games.

It is the latest article to cast doubt on the Games, which were postponed over the coronavirus last year but have been hit by a surge in cases and plunging public support.

“I am determined to realise a safe and secure Tokyo Games as proof that mankind will have overcome the virus,” Suga insisted on Friday.

Games organisers also said they were “fully focused on hosting the Games this summer”.

READ ALSO: Japanese Minister Concedes ‘Anything Can Happen’ With Tokyo Olympics

But Sakai said a decision on hosting the Games was looming for Japan, a statement that appeared to deviate from the government’s stated position.

“At some point in time, we will naturally make a decision as to whether to actually hold it,” he said.

“Until then the Japanese government will do what it needs to do and make progress and prepare for it.”

Concerns have risen as Japan battles a third wave of virus infections, with polls showing around 80 percent of Japanese oppose hosting the event this year.

But International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said there was “no reason whatsoever” for them not to go ahead on July 23 as scheduled.

“This is why there is no plan B,” he told Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

‘The Tokyo Games are on’

The IOC took the unprecedented decision to postpone the Games last March after Australia and Canada said they would not be sending teams to Tokyo as the pandemic worsened.

On Friday, Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll ruled out another withdrawal, calling reports of the Games’ cancellation “unfounded rumour”.

“The Tokyo Games are on,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“The flame will be lit on the 23rd of July 2021. This has just been reconfirmed again by the Japanese prime minister this afternoon in parliament in Tokyo.

“It will be a very different Games, simpler, with a focus on the athletes and their competitions.”

Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP this week that the organising committee is “unwavering” on holding the event this year, but couldn’t rule out staging it without spectators.

But domestically there is rising doubt, with opposition lawmakers in parliament on Thursday calling for the Games to be postponed or cancelled.

And on Friday, the Tokyo Medical Association called for the event to be held behind closed doors.

“They must give up the idea of having the festivity of the century by inviting people from various countries,” its chairman Haruo Ozaki told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

“The feasibility of holding it with no spectators should be considered.

 

AFP

Tokyo To Urge Residents To Avoid ‘Non-Essential’ Outings

People wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus visit the restaurant area of Omoide Yokocho alleyway in Shinjuku district of Tokyo on November 19, 2020.
Philip FONG / AFP

 

Tokyo’s governor will urge residents to avoid non-essential outings and ask businesses serving alcohol to shut early as the country battles record coronavirus infections, local media said Wednesday.

Japan has seen a comparatively small outbreak of the respiratory disease, with just over 2,000 deaths and 135,400 infections, and it has not imposed the strict lockdowns seen elsewhere.

But it is now battling a third wave, reporting record numbers of daily infections nationwide in recent days.

Neither of the governor’s new calls will carry any enforcement mechanism. Even a state of emergency declared in the spring during a spike in infections did not carry punishments for those who defied calls to stay home or close their doors.

Tokyo has already raised its virus alert level to the top of a four-tier scale, and national broadcaster NHK said Governor Yuriko Koike would now call on residents to “refrain from making unnecessary and non-emergency outings”.

 

READ ALSO: US To Distribute 6.4 Million Covid Vaccine Doses In First Tranche

 

She is scheduled to give a press conference later Wednesday after a meeting of an advisory panel.

Other local media also reported the expected call from Koike, adding she would also ask businesses serving alcohol to close at 10 pm starting from Saturday for approximately three weeks.

Businesses complying will be eligible for compensation.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said last week Japan was on “maximum alert” over the virus, and his government has been forced into a U-turn on a controversial domestic tourism campaign.

It initially insisted it would not scale back the so-called Go To campaign, but reversed course and has allowed individual regions to choose to opt-out.

So far, hard-hit Osaka and the northern city of Sapporo have been excluded from the programme, which subsidises travel inside the country in an attempt to help the struggling travel and hospitality industries.

-AFP