Welcome to SportsPro’s Tokyo 2020 daily wrap, providing the latest updates, news and social highlights from the Olympic Games.
By Tom King
Tokyo is bracing for an opening ceremony like no other on Friday, with the athletes’ parade and traditional lighting of the torch taking place in front of an empty Olympic Stadium.
The event will go ahead after being plunged into further chaos following the dismissal of its show director on Thursday. Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto confirmed that Kentaro Kobayashi has been sacked on the eve of the event due to alleged anti-Semitic jokes he made during a comedy routine in 1998.
Kobayashi’s departure comes after Keigo Oyamada, the show’s composer, was forced to resign earlier this week after footage emerged of interviews in which he admitted bullying disabled children during his schooldays.
And its executive creative director Hiroshi Sasaki stepped down in March following criticism of his suggestion that plus-size model Naomi Watanabe dress up as an ‘Olympig’ during the ceremony.
No fans and fewer than 1,000 VIPs will be present in the 68,000-capacity Tokyo Olympic Stadium, with a string of heads of major corporations such as Toyota and Panasonic announcing publicly that they would withdraw, citing concerns over the Japanese public’s perception of the Games.
Japanese media have reported that Emperor Naruhito will be present at the ceremony, but will pointedly refrain from using the word “celebrate”.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, fewer than 30 heads of state and other dignitaries are expected to attend the opening ceremony, the lowest number on record for a recent Olympics, according to a Yomiuri Shimbun report.
Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, who played a significant role in Tokyo’s winning bid back in 2013, will also not attend the opening ceremony, according to NHK.
By Tom King
With Brisbane having secured the 2032 Olympic Games this week, the race to host the 2036 Games is underway with Indonesia and India already weighing bids.
Raja Sapta Oktohari, the president of National Olympic Committee Indonesia (NOCI), told reporters that his country has “continuous dialogue status”, adding: “We will not back down and want to keep fighting to host the Olympics by being the only targeted dialogue for the 2036 Olympics.”
At a press conference in July of last year, International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said that a 2032 candidate would have the opportunity to take part in continuing the bidding process to host the Games in 2036 or 2040.
In India, meanwhile, the city of Ahmedabad is being lined up as a potential host of the 2036 edition. Last month the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (Auda) hired an agency to survey the infrastructure required for the city to host an Olympics. India had previously submitted a formal expression of interest to bid for the 2032 Summer Games.
By Mark Staniforth, PA Olympics Correspondent, Tokyo
The world’s elite athletes are not the only ones straining on their starting blocks on the eve of the opening ceremony of the rescheduled Games.
Visiting media in the Japanese capital have been forced to exhibit uncharacteristic fleet of foot in a bid to make the most of the brief quarantine window afforded them by their respective accommodation.
Rules drawn up by the host government allow Olympic-accredited media the right to leave their hotels for just 15 minutes each day – during which time they are put under a stopwatch by lobby security.
Stated penalties for loitering in the Tokyo air for a moment longer than the allotted quarter of an hour include warnings, the stripping of Olympic accreditations and potentially even deportation.
Cue the sight of media representatives of all shapes and sizes swapping notebooks for sweatbands and running spikes and hurtling across the city’s numerous pedestrian crossings in a search-against-the-clock for green tea and packs of dehydrated noodles.
The number of positive cases affecting individuals with Olympic accreditations rose by 19 on Friday, taking the number who have tested positive since 1st July past the 100 mark.
Three of the latest to test positive were athletes, one of whom was residing in the Olympic Village. One was an athlete from the Netherlands while there were two more cases confirmed by the Czech Republic, taking the number of positives in the Czech camp alone to six.
In case you missed it, a clip of Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) president and IOC vice president John Coates “strongly recommending” that Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attends Friday’s opening ceremony has been doing the rounds and sparking a furious reaction on social media this week.
Coates, who was seen as a key figure in orchestrating Brisbane’s successful push to host the 2032 Games, has since defended himself against widespread allegations of ‘mansplaining’ and misogyny, insisting that his comments had been “completely misinterpreted by people who weren’t in the room”. Was he unfairly criticised? We’ll let you be the judge.
‘You are going to the opening ceremony.’ Here is that awkward exchange between AOC President John Coates and Queensland Premier @AnnastaciaMP at a media conference in Tokyo last night. #Brisbane2032 @BreakfastNews pic.twitter.com/bQqvFYyQla
— Michael Rowland (@mjrowland68) July 21, 2021
In lighter news, Japanese fighter pilots have been putting the finishing touches to their opening ceremony display this week.
WATCH: Japanese fighter pilots drew Olympic rings in the sky over Tokyo Wednesday (7/21). It was a practice run. Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force aerobatics team Blue Impulse is expected to create a similar display with the Olympic colors on Friday, the day of the opening ceremony. pic.twitter.com/RBAnhMM8I7
— KLBK News (@KLBKNews) July 22, 2021
What will the Olympics look like by 2040?
Why the Olympic sponsors have been uncharacteristically quiet in the build-up to Tokyo 2020
PODCAST | The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games commercial preview
From promise, to postponement, to perseverance: Tokyo’s turbulent journey to hosting the Olympics
Giles Morgan | Is the Olympics still the greatest show on earth?