Protesters and fans gather in Tokyo as Olympic torch relay reaches final stage




We are on Friday July 23. The Olympics are about to officially start, and here’s what you need to know.

It’s time to go: A year after their scheduled start date, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (they kept the 2020 mark) are expected to begin. The Games officially kick off on Friday evening Japanese time with the opening ceremony, ending months of speculation that the event could even take place as Japan struggles to bring Covid-19 under control.

Tokyo on Thursday recorded 1,979 new cases of Covid – the highest daily number since January 15. As of Thursday, there were 110 positive cases linked to the Games as those arriving in Tokyo undergo a rigorous testing program.

A handful of athletes have seen their dreams shattered after testing positive for the virus, forcing them to withdraw from competition. Most competitors spend years, if not most of their lives, training to reach the Olympics – and about 70% of them only get the chance once, according to Dick Pound , the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee.

The dignitaries arrive: French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the next Summer Games in 2024, has arrived in Tokyo for the opening ceremony. First Lady Jill Biden is also visiting the Japanese capital. She is to meet Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace before the opening ceremony.

However, the number of dignitaries present will be much lower than in previous years. Organizers said only 950 VIPs will be present in a stadium that can accommodate nearly 70,000 people. While athletes normally enter the stadium in front of a crowd of roaring fans, they will instead be greeted by mostly empty seats – a stark visual reminder of the pandemic’s toll.

What is planned: Friday in Japan is quite light. There are no medals to be won, but archery and rowing have preliminary competitions. The Games kick off in earnest Saturday morning Japanese time, which is Friday night on the east coast of the United States. Scroll down for upcoming events on Friday US time.

The full program of the Games is available here.


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