Politics has made its entry into Olympism, with, as authorized by the IOC, the knee to the ground of British and Chilean footballers before their match in the afternoon, to denounce racism.
These Olympics will be decidedly out of the ordinary, in a cathedral silence because of the closed session, only interrupted by some encouragement from her partners, the Japanese Yukiko Ueno threw the Games and the first ball of the softball match against Australia, in Fukushima.
A first breath of fresh air for these Games, postponed for a year for health reasons, which will be played under strict conditions, two days before the traditional official opening ceremony, Friday evening.
“Entering the stadium will be a moment of joy and relief”, because he is “Needless to say how the road to this opening ceremony was not so easy”, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach told reporters.
With no fans present, the 2021 Games are being shown only as a TV show (which is mainly the evolution of the Olympics over the past 20 years).
The coronavirus pandemic will loom over every element, every day and almost every moment of the Games due to the state of emergency in Japan, and it’s sadly too easy to imagine a scenario in which athletes find themselves disqualified due to positive tests.
Even the medal ceremonies will be different this time around: Instead of the tradition of a medalist bending down to be crowned with his award, the gold, silver and bronze winners will themselves grab their medals and put them on.
Considering Japan’s vaccination rate and its declaration of a state of emergency, the number of people working and participating in the Games, and the contagiousness of the Delta variant, these Olympic Games represent the greatest sporting event the planet has ever seen. faced amid the coronavirus.
A majority of Japanese citizens don’t even want the Games to continue, but with billions of dollars at stake, Olympics officials have decided the spectacle will continue.
At the very moment of this first launch, 300 km south in Tokyo, WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus took the opportunity of the Olympics to try once again to mobilize governments and populations in the face of the pandemic.
“We are not in a race against each other, we are in a race against the virus“, Declared the director general of the UN agency, in front of the members of the IOC gathered in the Japanese capital for their 138th session.
While the Covid-19 has already killed more than four million, “We are at the first stage of a new wave of infections and deaths”, and “100,000 more people will lose their lives by the extinction of the Olympic flame on August 8”, he insisted.
“The pandemic will end when the world chooses to end it. All this is in our hands ”, he said, calling for the administration of vaccines to be speeded up and, above all, to share doses more equitably between countries.
Among the unfortunate, a Chilean taekwondoist and a Dutch skateboarder, the first sportswomen in Japan to have to give up the Olympics.
In the afternoon, the first football matches allowed politics to make a timid entry into the Olympic world. The British and Chilean footballers dropped to one knee in Sapporo on Wednesday ahead of their match, the first in the Olympic tournament, in opposition to racism.
This gesture came after the IOC’s decision in early July to allow athletes to express their opinions during the Games until the start of the events. They now have the right to kneel down, make political comments in the media and on social networks or wear inscriptions on their clothes during press conferences.