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Entertainment Japan girds for a surreal Olympics, and questions are plenty

11:31  19 july  2021
11:31  19 july  2021 Source:   msn.com

Tokyo Olympics to allow local fans — but with strict limits

  Tokyo Olympics to allow local fans — but with strict limits TOKYO (AP) — A sharply limited number of fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, organizers announced Monday as they tried to save some of the spirit of the Games where even cheering has been banned. Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans, all of whom must be Japanese residents — for each Olympic venue, regardless of whether it is indoors or outdoors. Officials said that if coronavirus cases rise again the rules could be changed and fans could still be barred all together. Spectators from abroad were banned several months ago, and now some local fans who have tickets will be forced to give them up.

TOKYO (AP) — After a yearlong delay and months of hand-wringing that rippled across a pandemic-inflected world, a Summer Games unlike any other is at hand. It's an Olympics, sure, but also, in a very real way, something quite different.

A TV cameraman sits beside empty spectators' seats during an athletics test event for Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games at the National Stadium, in Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, May 9, 2021. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama) © Provided by Associated Press A TV cameraman sits beside empty spectators' seats during an athletics test event for Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games at the National Stadium, in Tokyo, Japan, Sunday, May 9, 2021. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

No foreign fans. No local attendance in Tokyo-area venues. A reluctant populace navigating a surge of virus cases amid a still-limited vaccination campaign. Athletes and their entourages confined to a quasi-bubble, under threat of deportation. Government minders and monitoring apps trying — in theory, at least — to track visitors’ every move. Alcohol curtailed or banned. Cultural exchanges, the kind that power the on-the-ground energy of most Games, completely absent.

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  Olympics-We all regret no fans at Tokyo Games, says IOC's Bach US-OLYMPICS-2020-BACH:Olympics-We all regret no fans at Tokyo Games, says IOC's BachOn Thursday, Tokyo Games organisers decided the July 23- Aug. 8 Olympics would take place without spectators as a resurgent coronavirus forced Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital that will run throughout the Games.

And running like an electric current through it all: the inescapable knowledge of the suffering and sense of displacement that COVID-19 has ushered in, both here and around the world.

FILE - In this April 22, 2021, file photo, Japan's women national team candidates try out a match in the operational test event of Rugby in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at empty Tokyo Stadium, in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this April 22, 2021, file photo, Japan's women national team candidates try out a match in the operational test event of Rugby in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at empty Tokyo Stadium, in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

All signs point to an utterly surreal and atomized Games, one that will divide Japan into two worlds during the month of Olympics and Paralympics competition.

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On one side, most of Japan’s largely unvaccinated, increasingly resentful populace will continue soldiering on through the worst pandemic to hit the globe in a century, almost entirely separated from the spectacle of the Tokyo Games aside from what they see on TV. Illness and recovery, work and play, both curtailed by strict virus restrictions: Life, such as it is, will go on here.

A man wearing a face mask walks past a restaurant in the evening in Tokyo, Friday, July 9, 2021. On Monday, July 12, another state of emergency starts in Japan's capital, where the Olympic and Paralympic Games' opening ceremony will be held in less than two weeks. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae) © Provided by Associated Press A man wearing a face mask walks past a restaurant in the evening in Tokyo, Friday, July 9, 2021. On Monday, July 12, another state of emergency starts in Japan's capital, where the Olympic and Paralympic Games' opening ceremony will be held in less than two weeks. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Meanwhile, in massive (and massively expensive) locked-down stadiums, vaccinated super-athletes, and the legions of reporters, IOC officials, volunteers and handlers that make the Games go, will do their best to concentrate on sports served up to a rapt and remote audience of billions.

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Since the pandemic canceled the originally scheduled version in 2020, the Japanese media have been obsessed with the Games. Will they really happen? If so, what will they look like? And the endlessly fascinating — shocking, really, to many here — prospect of staging an Olympics during what can seem like a slow-motion national disaster has permeated the society nearly as thoroughly as the virus.

“The mindset that the Olympics can be pushed through by force and that everyone should obey the order has invited this mess,” the Asahi newspaper said in a recent editorial. IOC and Japanese officials “should learn that their absurdity has deepened the public distrust in the Olympics.”

Of course, it's too early to predict what, exactly, will happen when these cross-currents converge during the Games, as about 15,000 athletes and, by some estimates, nearly 70,000 officials, media and other participants insert themselves into the flow of Tokyo life in sequestered and limited, yet ubiquitous, ways.

People walk around before getting into a restaurant/bar in Tokyo on Friday, July 9, 2021. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. And a local vaccination campaign is struggling to keep up.(AP Photo/Hiro Komae): Olympics Japan The Surreal Games © Provided by Associated Press Olympics Japan The Surreal Games

Will the normally hospitable Japanese people warm to the visitors or become increasingly infuriated as they watch fully vaccinated guests enjoy freedoms they haven’t experienced since early 2020? Will the Olympians and others play by the rules meant to protect the country they’re visiting? Will they bring in variants that will spread through Japan? Will the effort to vanquish the coronavirus be impeded?

Olympics medal table 2021: live tally shows gold medals won at Tokyo Games 2020 - including Team GB’s total

  Olympics medal table 2021: live tally shows gold medals won at Tokyo Games 2020 - including Team GB’s total Our live Tokyo Olympics medal table shows how many gold, silver and bronze medals have been won by each country so far © Team GB have triumphed in scooping up gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 (Composite: Mark Hall/J... Team GB continue to scoop up bronze, silver and gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.Day five saw another gold secured by swimmers Tom Dean, James Guy, Matthew Richards and Duncan Scott in the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay final.But there’s large shoes to fill for this year’s cohort of Olympians since Team GB finished second in the standings in Rio at the last Games in 2016.

FILE - In this June 30, 2021, file photo, local residents over 40 years old rest after receiving their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shot at a vaccination center in the complex of the Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. And a local vaccination campaign is struggling to keep up.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this June 30, 2021, file photo, local residents over 40 years old rest after receiving their first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine shot at a vaccination center in the complex of the Tokyo Skytree in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. And a local vaccination campaign is struggling to keep up.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

One thing seems certain: These games will have far less of what the world has come to expect from the Olympics, with its attractive mixture of human competition at the highest level amid celebrations and cultural exchanges on the sidelines by fans, athletes and local people.


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Usually, the Olympics are a vibrant time — a two-week party for a host city eager to show the world its charms. They teem with tourists and all the fun that an exotic locale and interesting visitors can bring. This go-round. though, will be strictly choreographed for TV, with the skeptical people of Japan largely isolated as yet another state of emergency places more constraints on their daily lives.

From World War II to Murakami: how Japan fell in love with baseball

  From World War II to Murakami: how Japan fell in love with baseball It’s no surprise that baseball is returning to the Olympics in Tokyo this year, after a 13-year hiatus. The sport has been a favourite in Japan for over a century — and this year, the national team is determined to match that fervour with medals. On Wednesday, Japan’s baseball team played its first game of the Tokyo Olympics, with a 4-3 win over the Dominican Republic. In a country where the sport borders on a religion, all eyes are on the national team and expectations are high.Some 150 years after it was introduced to the country by an American English teacher, Japan has made baseball its own, with a playing style that prioritises teamwork, and a positively fanatical fanbase.

FILE- In this May 14, 2021, file photo, still and TV photographers wait for an award ceremony after skateboarders completed a test event set in preparation for the Olympic Games, which has been rescheduled to start in July, in Tokyo on Friday, May 14, 2021. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File): Olympics Japan The Surreal Games © Provided by Associated Press Olympics Japan The Surreal Games

The story that foreign visitors focus on for these Games will also be very different from the reality on the nation’s streets.

FILE - In this June 20, 2021, file photo, a road at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village is seen, in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this June 20, 2021, file photo, a road at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Village is seen, in Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

Barring catastrophe, the IOC, local newspapers (many of which are also sponsors), Japanese TV, and rights holders like NBC will likely be unified in their message: Just getting through will be cast as a triumph.

Not many visiting journalists, however, will linger in ICUs or chase down interviews with angry residents who feel these Games were hoisted onto the nation so that the IOC could collect its billions in TV money.

More likely, there will be plenty of made-for-TV images of a tour-book version of Japan, one that mixes shots of ancient history, tradition and natural beauty with a high-tech, futuristic sensibility: Think of a sleek, silver bullet train, for instance, streaking past a snow-capped Mount Fuji. A reality, in other words, riddled with easy-to-digest cliches and predictable establishing shots.

FILE - In this July 1, 2021, file photo, officials of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games guide Ireland's athletes on their arrival at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. (Kyodo News via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this July 1, 2021, file photo, officials of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games guide Ireland's athletes on their arrival at Narita international airport in Narita, east of Tokyo. Tens of thousands of visiting athletes, officials and media are descending on Japan for a Summer Olympics unlike any other. There will be no foreign fans, no local fans in Tokyo-area venues. A surge of virus cases has led to yet another state of emergency. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

As Tokyo grapples in coming weeks with the intrinsic oddness of these pandemic Olympics, the disconnect between sports and sickness, rhetoric and reality, visitor and local will be hard to miss for many here.

Just how a reluctant Japan will weather a high-risk experiment that might come to define the coronavirus pandemic in future years, however, must wait until the visitors pack up and go home. Only then will the true price that the host nation must pay for these Surreal Games come into focus.

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Foster Klug, the AP's news director for Japan, the Koreas, Australia and the South Pacific, has covered Asia since 2005 and is based in Tokyo. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/APKlug

Olympics Latest: US women perfect so far in beach volleyball .
TOKYO (AP) — The Latest on the Tokyo Olympics, which are taking place under heavy restrictions after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic: ___ It’s a perfect record in beach volleyball pool play for the American women. Sarah Sponcil and Kelly Claes rallied from a first-set loss to beat Brazil’s Rebecca and Ana Patricia on Saturday in the preliminary round finale. The U.S. women went 3-0 in the round-robin, as did the other American team of April Ross and Alix Klineman.After losing the first set 21-17, Sponcil and Claes opened a 19-14 in the second before losing four straight points.

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