'Shame of the world': Hundreds stage anti-Olympics rally in Tokyo ahead of opening ceremony

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·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·3-min read
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People protest against the hosting of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)
People protest against the Tokyo Games ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday. (AFP via Getty Images)

Hundreds of activists have staged an anti-Olympics rally in Tokyo ahead of the opening ceremony.

It comes amid continued consternation in some quarters over the staging of the Games during the coronavirus pandemic.

Just as the Olympics begin, Tokyo has seen a wave of infections. There were 1,359 cases reported on Friday, after 1,979 were reported on Thursday: the highest daily number since January.

Before the opening ceremony, protesters gathered in the capital calling for the Games to be cancelled.

Watch: The remarkable moments when politics upstaged the Games

One protester carried a placard calling for the Olympics, which were delayed from last year due to the pandemic, to be “crushed”.

“IOC [the International Olympic Committee] is greed like a devil,” it read. "Olympians are selfish like a child.

“Tokyo Olympics are shame of the world.

“Refuse the Olympic Games!”

TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 23: An anti-Olympics protester demonstrates during the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration event on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Protesters gathered to demonstrate against the Olympic Games amid concern over the safety of holding the event during the global coronavirus pandemic as well as the cost incurred. (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)
An anti-Olympics protester in Tokyo on Friday. (Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - JULY 23: An anti-Olympics protester demonstrates during the Olympic Torch Relay Celebration event on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Protesters gathered to demonstrate against the Olympic Games amid concern over the safety of holding the event during the global coronavirus pandemic as well as the cost incurred. (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)
A protester in Tokyo calling for the Olympics to be abandoned ahead of the opening ceremony. (Getty Images)
Police officers escort a protester protesting against the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games after he got into an argument with a supporter of the Olympic Games near the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on July 23, 2021, ahead of the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP) (Photo by YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images)
Police officers escort a protester away from the demonstration after he got into an argument with a supporter of the Games. (AFP via Getty Images)

Other protesters called for money spent on the Olympics to be used for Japan’s COVID-19 response instead.

One activist was pictured being escorted away by police officers after getting into a row with a supporter of the Games who was in the vicinity of the protest.

The protest later moved to the National Stadium where the opening ceremony was being held. Protesters wearing face masks yelled “stop the Olympics” as they marched, with chanting continuing during the ceremony.

Anti-Olympics protesters gather outside the stadium. (Reuters)
Anti-Olympics protesters gather outside the stadium. (Reuters)

A poll carried out by a Japanese newspaper earlier this week showed more than two-thirds – 68% – of respondents doubted organisers' ability to control the virus. 

More than half – 55% – wanted the Games to be scrapped. 

Concerns about the COVID situation in Tokyo are so grave that earlier this week, Toshiro Muto, the CEO of the Tokyo Organising Committee, had refused to rule out a last-minute cancellation of the Games.

While the Olympics are still set to continue as planned, there are fears the Games' COVID isolation "bubble" system has already burst after a number of cases emerged among athletes and other people involved.

As of Friday, 106 people linked to the Games had tested positive for the virus. Some 11,000 athletes are set to stay in the Tokyo “village” during the event.

Earlier this month, Japan decided participants would compete in empty venues to minimise the risk of further infections.

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Public health experts have warned cases could surge past 2,000 a day in the capital by next month – levels that could drive the city's medical system to breaking point.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, is also under pressure over the slow rollout of the vaccine.

According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, 35.3% of the total population had received one dose. This compares to the UK, where almost double – 68.4% – have received a first dose.

Watch: The biggest drug cheats in Games history

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