The Tokyo Olympics start in earnest today, two days before Friday’sopening ceremony, and it can possibly see some first athletes enjoying more freedom in expressing themselves.
The head of the organising committee for the Tokyo Olympics, Mr Toshiro Muto yesterday did not rule out a last-minute cancellation of the global sporting showpiece, amid rising COVID-19 cases that have presented organisers with mounting challenges.
“We can’t predict what will happen with the number of coronavirus cases. So, we will continue discussions if there is a spike in cases,” he said.
Games officials on Sunday reported the first coronavirus case among competitors in the village in Tokyo where 11,000 athletes are expected to stay. There have been 67 cases detected among those accredited for the Games since July 1, organisers said on Tuesday.
Three softball and six women’s football matches are scheduled for Wednesday.
A softball date between hosts Japan and Australia starts the Games in Fukushima.
This is the city hit hard by the tsunami-caused meltdown at the nuclear power station in 2011.
Also in action is the U.S women’s football team who as world champions seek revenge against Sweden against whom they lost in the 2016 quarter-finals.
The American women were on the forefront of a fight against racial injustice when they took a knee during national anthems before games, but they have given it up since February.
The gesture, and others, are now possible for the first time at the Olympics.
This is because a revision of the rule 50 of the Olympic Charter allows athletes to express themselves ahead of their competitions, in social media and in interviews.
“When expressing their views, athletes are expected to respect the applicable laws, the Olympic values and their fellow athletes,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said earlier this month.
Protests remain forbidden during ceremonies, including victory ceremonies and in the Olympic village, and offenders face sanctions right up to exclusion from the Games.
This means that, for instance, a raised fist protest on the podium like at the 200m medal ceremony in 1968 from Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos remains outlawed.
“I hope the athletes will respect each other,” IOC athletes commission chair Kirsty Coventry told reporters on Tuesday.