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The Olympics Are Underway in Tokyo

Despite a spike in COVID-19 cases, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, are underway. Several safety precautions have been taken. Nonetheless, infections, even among athletes, have continued to rise. 

The day before the Opening Ceremony, which took place on July 23, I talked with visitors outside the Olympic Stadium. Several people had gathered in anticipation. There was a long line to take photos in front of the Olympic Monument.


Nanaka visits the Olympic Monument in Tokyo. 


“I was in line about 30 minutes,” said Yoko Ikeda, a mother of two children who was visiting with her family. “It was tough standing in a long line, but we wanted to take a picture.”

When asked how she felt about the Games taking place despite the pandemic, Ikeda said, “As a person living in Tokyo, part of me is worried about the Olympics being held now. But thinking about the athletes, I would love to see the Olympics.”  

Another visitor, Kumi Okura, also had the athletes on her mind. “They have been practicing hard,” she said, “so I think it’s better not to take away their chances,” The Games had originally been slated for 2020, but officials postponed them for a year due to the pandemic. 


Blue Impulse, Japan’s elite aerobatics team, performed for spectators as the Olympic Games got underway in Tokyo. 


Ahead of the Opening Ceremony, Blue Impulse, Japan’s aerobatics team, flew in formation over Tokyo. The planes spelled out the five Olympic Rings with plumes of smoke.

I watched the flight from Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The park only allowed a limited number of visitors due to the pandemic, so I had to wait in line for an hour before going inside.

It was about 95° F. Despite the heat, many people had gathered to cheer the performance by Blue Impulse. 

“We often take pictures of airplanes,” said Kairu Noumura, a local high school student. “But we can rarely watch Blue Impulse, so it was really exciting. This is the pride of Japan.”

In the garden, I encountered a woman named Kyoko Ishikaw. She was wearing traditional Japanese clothing decorated with the country’s flag. Ishikaw described herself as a “super fan” of the Olympics. She has attended all of the Summer Games since 1992, when they were held in Barcelona, Spain.

“I want people to understand that I am Japanese, and I would like to communicate with people from all around the world,” Ishikaw said. “That’s why I wear this clothing and cheer the athletes.” 


Nanaka with Kyoko Ishikaw, a self-described Olympics “super fan,” at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in Tokyo


Not everyone outside the stadium was a fan. Several people were protesting the Games. They shouted “Stop the Olympics!” while beating a drum.

Protesters insisted that it was too dangerous to hold the competition amid the pandemic. Many expressed concerns about triggering an explosion of infections.

Critics also disagreed with the Japanese government’s expenditure on infrastructure for the Games. They said that the money should have been used instead to help people who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, or to support the work of healthcare professionals.

When the Opening Ceremony began at 8 p.m., we could hear the announcements and music outside the stadium. People everywhere watched from their cell phones. When fireworks were shot into the sky, onlookers shouted for joy. 

I talked with Olympics enthusiast Hiroki Iwasa. He had won a ticket to the Opening Ceremony but could not attend due to the ban on spectators. 

“I’m watching the ceremony on TV with my family, and I’m so impressed,” Iwasa said. “I wanted to watch it with my two children at the stadium, and I’m disappointed that we couldn’t go. But I think it’s good that Tokyo 2020 is finally being held. The athletes have a limited time to participate in the Olympics, and it’s a good opportunity for them to challenge themselves.”

The Games will continue through August 8. 


Tokyo is exceptionally hot and humid during the summer months, as Nanaka illustrates with this thermometer. 


Photos courtesy of the author