Will there be an opening ceremony for the 2021 Olympics?
The 2021 Olympic Games will begin on Friday, July 23 with the Olympic opening ceremony. That will occur at 7 a.m. ET on Friday while it will occur at 8 p.m. local time in Tokyo. For those that don't want to get up early, the event will be re-broadcast Friday night in prime-time starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Sporting NewsWhen do the Olympics start? Opening ceremony date, time, schedule for 2021 Tokyo Games
15 July, 2021 - 09:06am
TOKYO (AP) — Tokyo reported its highest number of new COVID-19 cases in almost six months on Wednesday, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government said with the Tokyo Olympics opening in just over a week.
The surging numbers came out on the same day that International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach paid a courtesy call in Tokyo on Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Suga and Bach have both pledged that the Tokyo Olympics will be “safe and secure” despite the games opening with Tokyo and neighboring prefectures under a national government-imposed state of emergency.
Tokyo reported 1,149 new cases on Wednesday. This was the highest since 1,184 were reported almost six months ago on Jan. 22. It also marked the 25th straight day that cases were higher than they were a week earlier.
In Hamamatsu, 150 miles southwest of Tokyo, city officials reported a COVID-19 outbreak among staff at a hotel hosting Brazilian Olympic team members for pre-games training. Eight hotel workers have tested positive since Monday, the city said. The Brazilian athletes and coaches, whose rooms are in a separate area from other guests, have all tested negative.
Suga asked Bach to ensure that the Olympics will be safe, particularly for the Japanese public, of which fewer than 20% are fully vaccinated.
“To gain the understanding of our people, and also for the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games, it is absolutely necessary that all participants take appropriate actions and measures including countermeasures against the pandemic,” Suga told Bach. “As the host of the games, I do hope that the IOC will make the efforts so that all athletes and stakeholders will fully comply with these measures.”
Bach replied: “We’d like to reaffirm all our commitment on the side of the Olympic community to do everything, that we do not bring any risks to the Japanese people.”
Bach told Suga that 85% of the athletes and officials living in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay will be fully vaccinated. He said almost 100% of IOC members and IOC staff were “vaccinated or immune.” The IOC also says between 70-80% of international medical representatives were vaccinated.
The IOC and Tokyo organizers last week banned fans from all venues in Tokyo and three neighboring prefectures. A few outlying venues will allow some spectators, and fans from abroad were banned month ago.
About 11,000 athletes and tens of thousands of others will enter Japan for the Olympics. The Paralympics will add about 4,400 more athletes.
Japan has attributed about 15,000 deaths to COVID-19, a number low by many standards but not as good as most of its Asian neighbors.
The Olympic torch relay has also been pulled from Tokyo streets, with the Tokyo government fearing the relay would draw crowds and circulate the virus. The opening ceremony is July 23 at Tokyo’s new $1.4 billion National Stadium.
Bach is expected to travel Friday to Hiroshima, and his vice president John Coates to Nagasaki to use those two bombed cities as backdrops for promoting the Tokyo Olympics and the first day of the so-called Olympic Truce.
The Olympic Truce, a tradition from ancient Greece, was revived by a United Nations resolution in 1993.
Bach arrived in Tokyo last week and spent the first three days self-isolating in the five-star hotel that the IOC uses for its headquarters in Tokyo.
The IOC is pushing ahead with the Olympics, despite opposition in much of the Japanese medical community, partly because it is dependent for almost 75% of its income on the sale of broadcasting rights.
Bach later acknowledged the IOC “always knew that there is this skepticism” among the Japanese people but that they “have to gain confidence” from the protective measures in place.
“You have already seen in the last couple of weeks it’s changing slowly but surely,” the IOC leader told international media in a conference call. “When the athletes finally compete this will be well-appreciated here by the Japanese people.”
Bach also revealed he had doubts “every day” about the games going ahead in the 15 months since they were postponed but to voice them would have disrupted athletes preparing to qualify and compete.
“The challenge was that you could not speak about this,” he said. “This could or would have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They (athletes) trusted us.”
AP reporter Kantaro Komiya and AP video journalist Kwiyeon Ha in Tokyo, and AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.
More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
15 July, 2021 - 09:06am
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike were set to meet on Thursday, the metropolitan government said, as COVID-19 cases hit a six-month high in the host city.
Just over a week before the July 23 opening ceremony, Tokyo reported 1,149 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, its highest daily tally since Jan. 22.
It is not clear what the IOC chief and Koike will discuss at the meeting, which comes a day after Bach met Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
Postponed last year due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Games have little public support in Japan amid fears about the spread of the virus. Several visiting athletes have tested positive on arrival and a cluster of infections has emerged at a hotel hosting Brazilian team members.
The Russian women's rugby sevens team are in isolation after their masseur tested positive, the RIA news agency reported on Wednesday, as was part of the South African men's rugby team after a case was detected on their inbound flight.
Tokyo entered its fourth state of emergency earlier this week amid a rebound in COVID-19 cases that pushed Games organisers to ban spectators from nearly all venues.
Bach said on Wednesday that strict coronavirus measures were in place with high vaccination rates among participants, limited mobility for athletes and support staff, spectators banned and continuous testing.
"This message has to get across. The Japanese people have to gain confidence in this," he said.
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15 July, 2021 - 09:06am
15 July, 2021 - 09:06am
15 July, 2021 - 06:01am
My Olympic story is uniquely American, bridging my two worlds as a Japanese American. Now, more than ever, we could use some more bridge building.
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Sakura Kokumai training for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics USA TODAY
It has been a tumultuous time for everyone: The COVID-19 pandemic killed millions around the world while causing the postponement of nearly all sports, cultural events, concerts and the much anticipated Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games. Lockdowns and social distancing have isolated people and kept them from their loved ones, while social unrest in the United States added to the uncertainty.
For the past year, Olympic athletes like myself have been waiting for our chance to compete and shine on the global stage. This year more than ever, we must use this moment to recognize all that we have in common and come together as one to rise from the ashes of this pandemic – rather than focusing on what makes us different.
My Olympic story is uniquely American, and I take pride in how it binds together the two worlds in which I grew up as a Japanese American in Hawaii. I started learning karate in my local dojo in Honolulu to connect with and understand Japanese culture. It grounded me in a sport brought to the Hawaiian islands in the late 1800s and practiced for centuries before by our Japanese ancestors.
I've traveled back and forth to Japan since I was a kid, and my love for karate and appreciation for Japanese culture deepened over time. I trained with Japan’s top instructors throughout my high school, college and graduate school years, and their lessons set me on my path to the Olympics.
For a time, I pursued a withering schedule of both working full time in Tokyo and pursuing karate. I would start my day early so that I could be at my desk by 8:30 a.m. and then I’d often practice kata movement during work breaks. By 3:30 p.m., I’d be off to my dojo at Waseda University, where I’d train late into the evening.
But when Japan chose karate as an official sport for the 2020 Games, I quit my job and moved to California in 2017 to focus all my attention on preparing for the Games. Today, I’m the seven-time U.S. champion in kata and ranked in the world’s top five.
The opportunity to compete in the Olympics isn’t something I ever imagined. Tokyo is the first Games to stage a competition for my sport: the kata discipline of karate. I’m thrilled and in awe of wearing a Team USA uniform in the prestigious Nippon Budokan. This is the hall where Asian martial arts were first staged in the Olympics at the 1964 Tokyo Games – I’m honored and humbled to step into the same arena as those who came before me.
Yet, training and competing haven’t been an easy process, especially during the pandemic. Just like many office workers, Olympic athletes also took to Zoom to train remotely with coaches and teammates. For a while, it was disorienting. I used cameras and wore earphones to relay my intricate kata movements to my strength and conditioning coach in Toronto. I had to hold myself accountable to practice on my own, but scheduling time to practice with partners from around the world also helped.
The pandemic, and the isolation, helped me appreciate how important community is – especially whenever I connected virtually with my fellow karate peers and competitors from around the world. Karate also prepared me for this moment – teaching me patience, calm and strength in the face of adversity. I was shocked – mentally and physically – when the Games were originally postponed, but it was the right thing to do at the time, and this past year has made me stronger personally and as an athlete.
Those qualities also helped me overcome a racist verbal attack this spring while I was training in a public park in California. An unknown man threatened me, screamed racial slurs and told me to go home. Weeks later, he was arrested after allegedly assaulting an elderly Korean American couple. Since the attack, I’ve been heartened by the flood of support from both Americans and Japanese imploring me to be strong and go for the gold in Tokyo. Despite the attacker’s goal, I am more determined and motivated than ever.
Today, I’m looking forward to showing the world the beauty of my sport. The kata is unique in martial arts in that it doesn’t involve physical combat. Instead, a sole competitor retraces centuries-old ritual movements to display power, agility and grace with the aim of preventing an assailant from even considering an attack.
I hope my performance will inspire others to feel empathy toward their neighbor – whether it’s the family next door or someone on the other side of the world. We have all experienced such hardship during COVID-19, I’m truly hopeful the Tokyo Games can help people everywhere heal from this dark and traumatic period.
Sports also has the unique ability to inspire and break down the barriers of race, ethnicity and nationality that too often divide us. I hope the world will rally behind the athletes traveling to Japan – everyone has someone they can cheer for. This will be a unique competition, especially without the international fans who normally provide athletes like me with so much inspiration. I’ll miss the cheering and energy from the fans, but I know that keeping fans home will make everyone safer – from the athletes and coaches to the staff and locals in Tokyo. The light of the Olympic flame won’t be diminished.
I’m entering my final weeks of training, and I’m keenly aware of the challenges Japan faces in staging the Olympics and Paralympics during such trying times. We must all take personal responsibility to do our best to follow and promote the health guidelines. But I’m also increasingly confident that Japan will do everything necessary to protect athletes and staff. I know that the Games, as they’ve done throughout history, will uplift people around the world and create a shared sense of purpose and community once again.
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