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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Olympic flame arrives in soggy Tokyo in front of empty stadium

The Olympic flame arrived in Tokyo with fans kept away following a “heartbreaking” announcement that spectators would be banned from the games.

The unveiling ceremony took place at the Komazawa Olympic Park Stadium on Friday to mark the flame’s arrival in the city.

Before it arrived, five trumpet players performed a tune in front of a handful of people including journalists and government officials.

In a speech the capital’s governor said: “I’m glad that we welcome the torch relay, with these legacies we proudly show at home and abroad.”

Staff stand in empty seats during the unveiling ceremony for the Olympic flame

The near-empty event came just a day after officials announced that fans will be banned from most Olympic events and that Tokyo would be under a virus state of emergency from July 12 until August 22.

Stadiums in the areas of Fukushima, Miyagi and Shizuoka will only be allowed 50 per cent capacity.

Japan has only fully vaccinated 15 per cent of its population, compared with 47.4 per cent in the United States and more than 64 per cent in the UK.

Its capital also reported 920 new cases on Wednesday, up from 714 last week and its highest since 1,010 on May 13.

The decision to ban fans, which comes just two weeks before the opening ceremony, has been met with backlash with Olympic Tennis star Nick Kyrgios pulling out of the Games immediately after the announcement.

Kyrgios, 26, who represents Australia, said on Twitter: “I know myself. The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has.”

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