|In Tokyo, hundreds of athletes, including US sprinter Justin Gatlin, participated in a test event at the Olympic Stadium yesterday, as organisers fined tuned operations and practiced COVID-19 countermeasures with under three months to go before the Games begin.
No spectators were present in the stadium, where the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies will be held, as Tokyo remains under a state of emergency to tame a rise in coronavirus infections.
Sunday’s event, involving 420 athletes, including nine from abroad, was split into morning and evening sessions with Gatlin on the start list for the 100-metre in the evening.
Despite the state of emergency, organisers have operated more than 11 test events since last month with no reported coronavirus cases.
Four of those of events — volleyball, diving, marathon and athletics — included athletes from abroad.
Opinion surveys have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games this summer due to worries about the pandemic.Athletes, however, want the Games to go forward.
Meanwhile, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe has said that the Tokyo Games will be held as “a beacon of hope and optimism” despite the worsening Covid-19 situation in the host nation.
Coe, who was the president of the London 2012 Organising Committee, held a press conference at the Olympic Stadium in central Tokyo before watching the athletics test event at the venue.
The event, the last track and field event that will be held at the Olympic Stadium before the Games open on July 23, was held without spectators and featured 420 athletes.
And only nine of them were travelling from overseas, including American sprinter Justin Gatlin, who won the men’s 100 metres gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics and the silver in the same event in Rio five years ago.
The Japanese government on Friday extended the state of emergency over Covid-19 in Tokyo, Osaka, Hyogo and Kyoto until the end of May while expanding it to Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures.
But Coe was optimistic about the success of the Games, saying that athletes are all looking forward to competing in Tokyo.