Tokyo, Athletes Prepare for Unprecedented Olympics

In less than two weeks, more than 11,000 of the world’s best athletes will descend on Tokyo to compete at the most unusual Olympic Games in decades. Athletes will compete in empty stadiums after Olympics organizers reversed course Thursday and barred spectators in response to a major coronavirus resurgence. The decision came after Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo, citing the rising rates of COVID-19. “Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures,” Suga said.  Anti-Olympics protesters hold up signs and banner outside the event venue of the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay, in Tokyo, Japan, July 9, 2021.The news that virtually no one would be allowed into the games was met with frustration from ticket holders and athletes but relief from many Japanese citizens, who have been protesting the games for months. A national survey conducted in May found that 83% of voters wanted to postpone or cancel the Olympics.Tennis player Nick Kyrgios announced his withdrawal from the games on Thursday via Twitter, citing the lack of fans and a leg injury. Ever since COVID-19 began to wreak havoc on the globe last year, the Toyko 2020 Olympic Games have been plagued by delays, mushrooming costs, health concerns and myriad other issues.  The official cost of the games is about $15.4 billion, but a government audit conducted last December estimated the real cost to be closer to $28 billion.  Roughly 7.8 million tickets were expected to be made available for the games, which would have brought in an estimated $800 million in revenue.  A woman walks past the Olympic rings lit up at dusk in the rain, on the Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo, July 9, 2021.Despite the rising costs and coronavirus concerns, more than 200 countries are still set to come together for peaceful competition from July 23 to August 8. According to entertainment data company Gracenote, the U.S. is expected to win the most medals overall by a wide margin.  “This would mark the seventh successive Summer Games during which the American team would have come out on top of the medal count competition,” Gracenote wrote.  China and Russia are predicted to place second and third in total medals, respectively. However, Russia isn’t officially competing as a country because of a two-year ban issued by the World Anti-Doping Agency for systematic doping of Russian athletes, a practice that is banned in international sports.  Instead, 335 Russian athletes will compete as neutral athletes under the name “Russian Olympic Committee” and are barred from using the Russian flag or national anthem.  Canada, Australia and North Korea have withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics entirely because of the pandemic.

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