Anti-Olympics Protesters Gather Outside Stadium During Opening Ceremony amid Rise in COVID Cases
More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations attended the opening ceremony, which was themed "United by Emotion," where Emperor Naruhito formally opened the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.
The protesters were able to be heard off and on throughout the ceremony, especially during quieter moments within the setting. "Go to hell, IOC," some chanters could be heard exclaiming while others proclaimed, "Go to hell, Olympics" and "Olympics leave Japan."
Recent polling in the country showed that around 70% of residents wanted the Games canceled or postponed due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Japan. So far, at least 106 cases tied to the Olympics have been reported.
"Olympic protesters have shut down one of the busiest roads in Tokyo, in Harajuku," tweeted Washington Post journalist Michelle Ye Hee, alongside video from the demonstrations. "Police are clearing the road for them and yelling into megaphones asking passersby to make way for protesters."
In a photo posted by author William Andrews, protesters could be seen carrying signs outside of the opening ceremony. "Fireworks in the National Stadium while angry anti-Olympics protest continues outside," he tweeted. "Many scuffles with police."
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In another tweet from Associated Press GMS reporter Philip Crowther, protesters were pictured in close proximity to one another, though many wore face coverings as they opposed the Games.
Other protesters were seen carrying a banner that could "be roughly translated as, 'Stop the five rings,'" according to New York Times sports journalist Jonathan Ellis.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to run through August 8. A spokesperson for the event previously told Reuters that organizers are "concentrating 100% on delivering successful Games."
The international event, which was originally meant to take place in the summer of 2020 but was rescheduled due to the pandemic, has various safety protocols in place, including a ban on all spectators.
"No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games," the IOC said in a statement July 8, the same day the government of Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo as COVID-19 cases surged in the host city.
The blanket spectator ban had been previously agreed upon by the IOC, International Paralympic Committee and Tokyo organizers in June in the event that such a crisis would be declared.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.