The Tokyo segment of the Olympic torch relay started this morning with a small ceremony, a day after organisers decided to stage the games without spectators.
- Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have agreed to hold the Games without spectators
- A state of emergency has been implemented in Tokyo as COVID-19 infections rise again
- Polls show many Japanese do not want the Games to go ahead
Two weeks before the Olympics is due to begin, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attended a ceremony with little fanfare for the passing of the torch at Komazawa Olympic Park.
Outside, a small group of protesters who want the Games cancelled stood with signs, microphones and trumpets.
They could be heard inside the stadium as the ceremony took place.
A small band of protesters with signs and trumpets stood outside the torch ceremony in Tokyo. (ABC News: Jake Sturmer
With the event held behind closed doors, most people walking past were not aware of what was happening.
“The Olympics are meant to be a global festival that people can enjoy,” one passing man said.
“In this situation, who the hell can enjoy this Olympics in Japan?”
The relay began in March in northeastern Japan but has faced multiple detours and was scaled back due to coronavirus restrictions.
That has included pulling some stages of the Tokyo Olympic torch relay off public roads of the Japanese capital. At times, it has been run only in public park spaces.
The original plan was for the relay to finish on July 23 when the flame would be used to light the Olympic Cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
But instead of cheering crowds, the flame will be ushered in to a relatively empty stadium with Tokyo under a state of emergency until August 22 amid rising COVID-19 infections.
Shuzo Matsuoka, Tokyo’s first torchbearer, carried the Olympic torch lantern at the stadium.(Reuters: Kim Kyung-Hoon
Organisers agreed yesterday to hold the Games without spectators, with Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto saying it was “regrettable” that the Olympics were going to be held in a limited format.
She apologised to those who had bought tickets.
Officials in Tokyo confirmed 920 new infections on Wednesday the highest figure since mid-May.
This week it was also announced that the public would be asked not to gather to watch the marathon and walking races being held on streets of the northern island of Hokkaido.
Olympics remain unpopular with some
For months, polls have shown that many people in Japan wanted the Games cancelled or delayed amid fears of a superspreading event.
Polls have showed many Japanese residents were skeptical about the Games, but support has grown as the Opening Ceremony draws closer. (AP: Kyodo News
In a Yomiuri survey conducted last month, 48 per cent of respondents said they believed the Games should not go ahead.
The majority of respondents also said virus measures for athletes and participants seemed inadequate.
The decision to ban spectators may shift public opinion, however, with a recent Asahi newspaper poll showing 64 per cent of those surveyed were concerned about the risk of people watching from stadiums.
On July 4, a protester was arrested for trying to extinguish the Olympic flame during the relay through Ibaraki Prefecture outside Tokyo.
Footage of the incident showed the woman drawing her water gun and shooting a thin stream of liquid at the unsuspecting torch runner.
No Olympics! Stop the Games! she shouted, before being confronted by security.