Tokyo: The pandemic-postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics commenced on Wednesday (Jul 21), with women’s softball pitcher Yukiko Ueno starting the games, a celebration that the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) called ‘a celebration of hope’. COVID-19 outbreak in host city Tokyo has cast a shadow over the world’s largest sporting event, which is being held largely without spectators. This month, Japan decided to have participants compete in empty venues to reduce health risks.
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Games should take place to show the world what is possible with the right plan and measures. ‘May the rays of hope from this land illuminate a new dawn for a healthy, safer and fairer world, It is my sincere hope the Tokyo Games succeed.’ he said, holding aloft an Olympic Games torch. Tedros warned the world was on the brink of another wave of infections and criticized vaccine discrepancies between countries.
Despite rising COVID-19 infections, Olympic officials and Japanese officials forged ahead with the sports spectacle despite opposition in the country to hosting over 11,000 athletes and staff. As a result of the pandemic, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will meet with less than 20 country leaders on the sidelines of the Olympics, down from as many as 120 originally planned. According to a recent poll in the Japanese newspaper Asahi, 68 percent of respondents doubted the Olympic organizers’ ability to control Coronavirus infections, and 55 percent thought the Games should not proceed.
Japanese media reported that government adviser Shigeru Omi said Tokyo’s COVID-19 infections may spike to a record level of 3,000 in the first week of August. As a result, the already-overstretched medical system would be put under immense pressure. On Wednesday, there will be two more softball games as well as the first six women’s soccer matches. On Friday, there will be an opening ceremony.