July 26, 2021

TOKYO (Reuters) – Sport fans gathered along the route of the triathlon on Monday, grabbing a rare opportunity to see live competition at the pandemic-hit Tokyo Games despite calls from organisers for spectators to stay home.

Athletes have been competing to mostly empty stands after spectators were banned as part of COVID-19 countermeasures in Tokyo, which is in a state of emergency amid rising infections.

For Olympic fans, the spectator ban ended their dream of seeing athletes compete in the flesh on home soil.

But at the open air triathlon route on the island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, fans assembled in defiance of Olympic staff carrying signs reading “to prevent the spread of infection, we ask that you refrain from spectating roadside”.

“I think the risk of getting infected is extremely low, almost equal to zero,” said Masao Kitada, a 35-year-old finance worker standing at the roadside. “The Tokyo Games are very special, so I can’t miss this chance.”

The men’s triathlon climaxed on Monday with victory for Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, who broke clear https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/triathlon-blummenfelt-wins-triathlon-gold-norway-2021-07-25 in the run leg to take gold.

“There are not that many people here so the atmosphere is quiet but it’s spectacular to see the athletes,” said spectator Gerald Lies, 45, from Germany.

Hisashi Onitsuka, 61, works in insurance and had a ticket to triathlon prior to the ban. “I got a day off at my company and came here to see if I’m able to have a glimpse,” said Onitsuka.

The host nation, where polls have shown widespread opposition to holding the Games during a pandemic, is on a gold run with five gold medals https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/japan-pm-offers-congrats-gold-medallist-games-heat-up-2021-07-25, just behind China with six.

“We need to keep saying that people need to refrain from coming,” Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya told a news conference on Monday.

(Reporting by Irene Wang, Sam Nussey and Lucien Libert; Editing by Michael Perry)