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23 Jul, 2021 13:29

‘This is all feeling very depressing’: Specter of anti-Olympics protests looms large over Tokyo opening ceremony

‘This is all feeling very depressing’: Specter of anti-Olympics protests looms large over Tokyo opening ceremony

The empty, cavernous arena which hosted Friday's Olympic opening ceremony in Tokyo was contrasted by a wave of angry protestors outside of it as anti-Olympic sentiment festers in Japan ahead of the official start of the Games.

Just a few hundred Olympic delegates were present inside Tokyo's Olympic Stadium on Friday to mark the ceremonial beginning of the Olympic Games on Friday as the event finally kicked off a year after it was postponed due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the decision to stage the event this summer in Tokyo has again been met with significant disapproval from several sections of Japanese society amid concerns that the Games could lead to an onslaught of new infections to add to Tokyo's ever-worsening battle with the virus.

Recent opinion polls have indicated that as many as 80 percent of the Japanese populace opposed the Olympics going ahead as Tokyo continues to grapple with rising case numbers, with the Japanese capital recording a seven-day average of 1,278 confirmed infections this week compared to just 392 a month ago.

Several restrictions have been put in place in an attempt to safeguard against an outbreak in the Olympic Village and protect Japanese citizens from variants of the virus which may have been imported by traveling athletes.

Such is the wave of pessimism surrounding the Games, it has been reported that throngs of protestors who have gathered outside of the stadium can be heard inside and on various television broadcasts whenever there is a lull in proceedings – which some have suggested prompted officials to cut short a moment of silence for people who have lost their lives throughout the pandemic.

"Every time there is a lull in the music at the opening ceremony, the noise from the demonstration against the Games happening outside becomes clearly audible," wrote journalist Oliver Holt. 

"A very short moment of silence. Hard to wonder whether that was shortened thanks to the noise coming from outside. Clearly audible protests echo around the empty stadium whenever there is a lull," added another reporter, Mike Keegan.

Further reports from inside the Olympic Stadium said that the event is "sobering" and more resembles a "dress rehearsal" than an official opening ceremony, given that such events are usually conducted to a wave of fanfare from a capacity crowd.

Not so this time. The restrictions have rendered the ceremony somewhat anaemic or even pantomime, as athletes from dozens of countries across the globe parade through the stadium while waving to imaginary fans in the empty stands.

"Tokyo is not 'sending a message of resilience and hope'," wrote journalist Barney Ronay. "It's sending a message of massive contracts signed and political capital staked, making the best of an obligation. Deeply phoney to pretend otherwise."

"Bloody hell. This is all feeling very depressing. Such a tough job for Japan to push ahead. I really hope this is a success for them," said Penny Timms, of ABC News. 

Another joked: "Athletes waving to an empty stadium is on brand for 2020."

Others, meanwhile, were critical of what they saw as a soulless, even dystopian iteration of one of the world's most beloved sporting events as it struggles to generate enthusiasm from fans and athletes alike.

"This is so dystopian looking ...masks, Olympic legends waving to empty seats, a tribute to those who have died, a dance for the spirits – a somber start," wrote Sarah MacDonald, of ABC. 

"Well, so far the opening of the Olympic Games has been perfect for our times. Joyless and dull," said another.

"Olympics opening ceremony... pretty sad, somber, kind of appropriate I guess, and one to be remembered for this," came the thoughts of a third.

Also on rt.com ‘It’s totally racist’: Senegalese musician claims he was removed from Olympics opening ceremony ‘because he is black’

The Tokyo Olympics have been hit with a wave of negative publicity as the days ticked towards Friday's opening ceremony, much of it being self-inflicted.

A Japan-based Senegalese musician has accused the organizers of the opening ceremony of being "racist" after he said he was told that he was being excluded from a musical performance because of his skin color, while at least two members of the various organizing committees were forced to resign for making inappropriate comments about the holocaust and a female comedian in separate incidents.

Sport, though, has a unique ability to unify people. It remains to be seen whether even an event as colossal as the Olympics can persuade a surly Japanese populace that holding the event – at mammoth cost to the country – is anything but a bad idea. 

Also on rt.com 'Cancel the Olympics': Protesters take to Tokyo streets as Olympic Opening Ceremony gets underway