TOKYO — The July 23 opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo Olympics is less than two weeks away, with most events set to be held in front of no spectators.
As well as the medals to be won, much attention is on how authorities contain potential COVID-19 outbreaks among visiting athletes and officials. Infections have been rising in the Japanese capital, which is currently under a state of emergency with restrictions on opening hours for bars, restaurants, and some stores.
Here are the latest developments in this evolving story:
Monday, July 12 (Tokyo time)
3:12 a.m. Tennis player Serbia’s Novak Djokovic said he was “50-50” about competing at the Tokyo Olympics later this month following the organisers’ decision to ban fans from attending and the restrictions on the number of people he can take to the Games. “I’ll have to think about it,” the 34-year-old told reporters in London after winning his sixth Wimbledon title. “My plan was always to go to Olympic Games. “But right now I’m a little bit divided. It’s kind of 50-50 because of what I heard in the last couple days.”
Sunday, July 11
9:00 p.m. Akasaka Excel Hotel Tokyu has posted “Japanese only” and “foreigners only” notices in front of its elevators in an attempt to step up anti-coronavirus measures ahead of the Olympics, but removed them after facing criticism, hotel officials said. The hotel “had no intention to discriminate” against foreigners, and the notices were only intended to separate the flow of movements of guests related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games from that of general guests, one of the officials said, adding, “We apologize for having caused misunderstanding.”
8:02 p.m. Japanese golfer Hideki Matsuyama, who tested positive for COVID-19 on July 2, withdraws from British Open due to United Kingdom health protocols. “I’m feeling fine but haven’t been able to practice in preparation for The Open,” said Matsuyama in a statement. “Combining that with the difficult travel to the UK, my team and I have decided it’s best to withdraw to ensure everyone’s safety.” He will focus on the Tokyo Olympics, which begins its golf competition on July 29.
Saturday, July 10
5:36 p.m. There will be no spectators at Olympics matches in Fukushima, Tokyo 2020 organizers announce at a press conference. The prefecture will host baseball and softball games, including the opening matches where Japan will play against the Dominican Republic and Australia, respectively.
Friday, July 9
3:30 p.m. Tokyo 2020 organizers will let local governments decide whether to go ahead with public viewings, President Seiko Hashimoto tells reporters. She also announces that the IOC’s Thomas Bach and John Coates will continue their planned trips next week to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, citing requests from locals in the two cities hit by atomic bombs in World War II.
2:00 p.m. One Olympic official from overseas has tested positive for COVID-19, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reports, without specifying the individual’s country of origin. The report says the person, who was quarantined, is the first games official to test positive, joining a handful of athletes and other cases.
9:30 a.m. Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios withdraws from the Olympics, citing injury and last night’s decision by organizers to ban spectators. “The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me,” he wrote on Twitter. Kyrgios retired in the third round at Wimbledon last week after injuring an abdominal muscle.
8:30 a.m. The Olympic flame enters the final leg of its journey to the opening ceremony on July 23. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike received the torch as it arrived in the capital. The torch relay kicks off at noon and continues until the day of opening ceremony.
1:30 a.m. Britain’s Olympic team — the country’s largest ever — will have more female athletes than males for the first time, the national Olympic committee says.
A tweet from Team GB shows the age diversity.
Thursday, July 8
9:30 p.m. The Tokyo Olympics will be held without spectators at venues in the capital and three surrounding prefectures, the organizing committee has decided, as the city enters a fourth state of emergency after a surge in COVID-19 infections. Read more here.
12:30 p.m. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrives in Japan for the Games. He meets tonight with Tokyo 2020 organizers and officials from the national and city governments to decide on whether to ban all spectators from the games as the capital enters a fourth COVID state of emergency
Tuesday, July 6
5:30 p.m. Organizers agreed that in view of the current COVID-19 situation, it will be necessary to reduce the risk of infection by restricting the movement of members of the public along the course of the marathon in Sapporo. They will ask the public to refrain from spectating along the course.
5:15 p.m. The Japan Olympic Committee held an online launch ceremony for the Japanese athletes who will compete at the Olympics.
“For the first time in a half-century, the Tokyo Olympics are about to begin. In a world that the coronavirus divided, sports will bond people,” JOC President Yasuhiro Yamashita told athletes in the ceremony.
306 men and 276 women will compete at the Games. The 582 Japanese athletes will be the most in the country’s history.
3:48 p.m. South Korean President Moon Jae-in has yet to decide whether to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games to be held late this month, Yonhap News reports, citing his office.
Moon could consider a visit there, provided that an “accomplishment,” like summit talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, is expected, a Blue House official told Yonhap on the condition of anonymity.
The Sankei Shimbun reported earlier that South Korea has notified Japan of Moon’s possible attendance at the ceremony slated for July 23.
3:00 p.m. Tokyo 2020 announces that two staff working at the Olympic Village tested positive last week. The staff and two other contractors who also work at the village had eaten at the same table. The contractors were determined to have had close contact with the two staffers but later tested negative.
12.30 p.m. China is expected to send more than 400 athletes to the Games, Chinese state media reports, putting it on track to renew a record set at Rio 2016. China has already secured 318 spots in 224 events for 30 disciplines, the official Xinhua news agency reported. At Rio 2016, China sent a record 416 athletes in 26 disciplines and 210 events – its biggest for an overseas Olympic Games.
4:00 a.m. Maana Patel becomes the first Indian female swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics, overcoming pool closures and a harsh lockdown as she prepared for the Tokyo Games during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patel, 21, will compete in the women’s 100-meter backstroke after world governing body FINA approves her participation following strong performances in European meets during the past three months.
“I am very, very thrilled,” she tells Reuters in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad during a practice session.
2:00 a.m. Japan’s Olympic team for this month’s games will consist of 582 athletes, the most ever for the country, led by basketball star Rui Hachimura and wrestler Yui Susaki as joint flagbearers.
Hachimura, the first Japanese player to be drafted for the U.S. National Basketball Association, plays for the Washington Wizards. Female wrestler Susaki is regarded as a medal hopeful for Japan. Tennis star Naomi Osaka will arrive in Japan shortly before the start of the games.
Monday, July 5
12:30 p.m. The Australian Olympic Committee’s COVID protocols will “assume that the virus is circulating within the village,” says its chief medical officer.
In a media briefing, Dr. David Hughes described the airport in Tokyo as well as the gym and dining hall in the Olympic Village as “areas of risk.” To mitigate infections, Australian athletes will be able to use a dedicated gym in the committee’s Tokyo facility, and encouraged to “grab and go” in the dining hall.
10:00 a.m. The International Olympic Committee has granted more leeway for athletes to make political statements, potentially setting the stage for displays of activism at the Tokyo Games.
Updated guidelines released recently say Olympians can express their views in “mixed zones, including when speaking to the media,” and on social media. They are also allowed to make gestures “on the field of play prior to the start of the competition,” but apparently not on the podium.
The guidelines warn against disrupting proceedings and stress the expressions must not be “targeted, directly or indirectly, against people, countries, organizations and/or their dignity.”
Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter states, “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” But pressure has been building for more flexibility in an era when many athletes are speaking out on issues like racism and human rights.
Friday, July 2
11:35 p.m. Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are considering a ban on spectators at the opening ceremony, people familiar with the discussions say. Such a decision would be based on whether current coronavirus-related restrictions on activity in the Japanese capital are extended, these people say.
Tokyo reports 660 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. As of Thursday, new cases in the capital and its three surrounding prefectures were higher than a week earlier for 12 straight days.
8:40 p.m. The Tokyo Olympics organizers have extended the duration of the opening ceremony on July 23 by 30 minutes, until 11:30 p.m., to allow extra time for the delegations to enter the stadium at a safe distance. The athletes are supposed to walk at least 2 meters apart as a COVID-19 precaution.
The schedule for the Paralympics’ opening ceremony on Aug. 24 remains unchanged, while the closing ceremonies for both events have been shortened by 30 minutes.
7:00 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, who had been temporarily on leave due to fatigue, held her first press conference earlier on Friday after returning to public service. She acknowledged that the number of coronavirus infections is on the rise again and said it is necessary to consider holding the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without spectators.
Tokyo has logged an average of 537 cases over the past seven days, 18% higher than the previous week.
4:55 p.m. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto promises organizers will “respect” freedom of the press during the games but asks journalists from overseas to understand the need for stringent virus countermeasures.
“Clearly, we have to protect the freedom of the press but strict behavior restrictions will be needed to secure Japanese people’s safety,” Hashimoto says at a regular media briefing. “We acknowledge that there will be some inconvenience but we will make sure the press can engage in reporting smoothly during the games.”
Her comments come after a group of U.S. media organizations urged Tokyo 2020 to clarify the rules, including plans for GPS monitoring.
Hashimoto also talks about arrangements for athlete moms bringing their babies to Japan. Although babies and caregivers will not be allowed in the Olympic Village, she says organizers will ensure mothers can see and feed their infants in specified accommodation. “I want to create an environment where athlete moms can come to Japan with peace of mind,” she says.
12:40 p.m. Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa tells reporters that Japan today expects 131 Olympic arrivals from seven countries. On Thursday, 166 arrivals from 11 countries entered for pre-games training; all of them tested negative for COVID-19, Marukawa said. Asked if organizers are considering a ban on spectators for some events and at certain venues, Marukawa said a final decision will be made during a five-party meeting.
Thursday, July 1
4:00 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says it is “possible” the games might end up not having spectators, depending on the COVID-19 situation. “We will prioritize safety of people,” Suga says. The current plan is to limit fans to 10,000 or 50% of venue capacity.
Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of coalition partner Komeito, also tells reporters that holding the games without crowds should be considered. “I want the government to consider allowing no spectators and send a message to the Japanese people at the right time,” Yamaguchi says.
2:45 p.m. The head of Samoa’s Olympic committee tells Reuters that only the country’s weightlifters will not attend the Tokyo Games, amid reports suggesting the island nation’s caretaker government planned to withdraw from participation altogether over COVID-19 fears.
“The only team that cannot travel is the weightlifting team, which is based here in Samoa,” committee president Patrick Fepuleai is quoted as saying. Athletes already overseas would not be affected, he said. “We are still sending a team to the Olympics. Our teams are scattered all around.”
10:45 a.m. Special entry lanes for Olympic athletes and officials have opened at the two international airports serving Tokyo, Narita and Haneda. On July 1, 130 people from 10 countries are expected to enter Japan through the two hubs.
The lanes are part of organizers’ “bubble” approach to curb the spread of COVID-19 — keeping Olympic arrivals separate from ordinary passengers at immigration and the airport exits.
10:30 a.m. Samoa’s caretaker government intends to bar the country’s team from going to the Tokyo Olympics over COVID-19 concerns, according to media reports. Radio New Zealand says the cabinet in the Pacific island nation — locked in a long political standoff over a close election earlier this year — made the decision on Wednesday but had yet to inform the athletes. The local Samoa Observer reports that the country’s own Olympic association was caught off guard and was to convene an urgent meeting on Thursday. If Samoa indeed pulls out, it would be the second to do so after North Korea.
2:00 a.m. A report by Public Health Scotland says 1,991 residents with COVID-19 have been identified as having attended at least one Euro 2020 soccer event during their infectious period — a revelation unlikely to soothe concerns about the Olympics. It says nearly two-thirds of the cases traveled to London for activities related to the tournament, including 397 who attended a June 18 match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium.
12:30 a.m. President Vladimir Putin wishes luck to Russian athletes who will compete at the Tokyo Olympics without their national flag or anthem because of a two-year ban for doping violations.
“All of Russia will be cheering for you,” Putin is quoted by Reuters as saying at a ceremony at the Kremlin.
More than 300 Russian athletes will compete under the name ROC, which stands for Russian Olympic Committee.
Wednesday, June 30
7:55 p.m. The International Olympic Committee says its President Thomas Bach is set to arrive in Japan on July 8, according to news agency Kyodo.
12:10 p.m. Asahi city in Chiba prefecture won’t accept athletes from Zambia, NHK reports. 46 athletes were supposed to train in the city from July 9. After some athletes from Uganda tested positive in Osaka, the city discussed the matter and decided to cancel the program due to limited capacity of isolating athletes should there be cases.
11:59 a.m. In a joint letter from U.S. media organizations including The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times, sports editors ask Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee, and the Japanese government for clearer guidelines for visiting journalists.
In the letter seen by Nikkei Asia, the editors ask for clarity on elements of guidelines “that have not been fully detailed” and seek the reconsideration of “some measures that go beyond what is necessary to keep participants and residents safe during the coronavirus pandemic.”
In particular, the editors seek further guidance on how GPS technology will be used to track journalists, and the apps that reporters will asked to use to monitor their movement in Japan.
The editors request:
– That before asking for consent to monitor journalists through GPS, the organizing committee deliver clear written guidance on the situations in which GPS information could be sought and how it would be used.
– That all apps expected to be used be allowed to be reviewed by the media for technological security.
– That some of the most severe restrictions be reconsidered with respect to common sense and without stifling press freedoms.
– That journalists be permitted to engage in routine newsgathering as long as they are masked and engaged in social distancing
11:30 a.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, left hospital on Wednesday morning. She had been in hospital for about a week due to what she said was excessive fatigue. She will resume her duties on Thursday and will work from home for the time being.
Tuesday, June 29
11:29 p.m. U.S. first lady Jill Biden may attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics next month, President Joe Biden says.
“We’re trying to work that out now. That’s the plan,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.
The ceremony, scheduled for July 23, has been beset by the coronavirus pandemic with Japan still grappling with outbreaks.
7:00 p.m. The Olympic torch relay will not be run on public roads in most parts of Tokyo for the first eight days of the capital’s leg, which begins next week, Japan’s Kyodo News reports, citing the metropolitan government.
With the exception of Tokyo’s small island areas, the organizers will avoid public roads from July 9 to 16 to help prevent COVID-19 infections. Many other parts of the country have already scaled down their relay events.
Kyodo reports that the organizers will decide later on a format for the relay during the period from July 17 to the opening ceremony on July 23.
10:00 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden will not accept Japan’s invitation to attend the Olympics, Press Secretary Jen Psaki tells reporters in Washington.
“The president is not planning to attend the Games. He will certainly be rooting for the athletes, as will I — I’m kind of obsessed with the Olympics. But that’s not his — we will have a delegation from the United States, as we have historically had,” Psaki says. “But we will continue to also convey the public health guidelines and guidance that we’ve been … delivering out there about only essential travel.”
Kyodo News reported, citing a diplomatic source, that the U.S. government is considering sending first lady Jill Biden to Tokyo for the opening ceremony.
Monday, June 28
9:53 p.m. The Japanese Olympic Committee is poised to name track and field athlete Ryota Yamagata as captain of the national delegation. Yamagata holds the Japanese record for the 100-meter dash.
Table tennis player Kasumi Ishikawa is expected to be designated as the first-ever vice captain in the summer games. Basketball player Rui Hachimura and wrestler Yui Susaki are seen as likely candidates for flag bearers.
7:00 p.m. Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato says that the government is coordinating with other authorities to test athletes every day for a week before their departure for Japan if they are coming from countries or regions where the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading quickly.
12:22 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visits Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport to check border control measures against the coronavirus. With less than a month to go before the Olympics, Suga said he told people in charge thoroughly take measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. Suga stressed that overseas athletes and officials will be subject to strict rules that restrict them from coming into touch with local people.
11:28 a.m. An opinion poll conducted by Nikkei finds that 22% of respondents think it is “reasonable” to hold the Olympics with up to 10,000 spectators; 33% said the games should be held behind closed doors; 37% answered that the games should be canceled or postponed; 4% supported holding the games with full spectators.
Some 59% supported holding the games this year, compared to 37% that opposed.
Sunday, June 27
12:00 p.m. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach is likely to go to Hiroshima on July 16, in a symbolic visit intended as a message of peace, Japan’s Kyodo News reports based on unnamed sources.
His trip to the atomic-bombed city would coincide with the start date of an “Olympic truce” adopted by the United Nations. The resolution urges member states to “cooperate with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond the period” of the games. The U.N. passed it in 2019 but changed the effective period after the 2020 Olympics were delayed by COVID-19.
The sources tell Kyodo that IOC Vice President John Coates may visit Nagasaki — also struck by an atomic bomb during World War II — on the same day.
Saturday, June 26
3:58 p.m. The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announces that it will give all 70,000 volunteers working at the games venues an opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Some volunteers who come into contact with athletes have already been vaccinated, but the committee is expanding the scope of vaccinations, starting June 30.
Friday, June 25
1:37 p.m. The Japanese Olympic Committee revealed that it was cyber attacked last April. Computers and the server that stores personal information about the athletes was hacked, but the information was not leaked externally. According to the JOC, the computers were infected with ransomware and the infected computers became inaccessible. JOC replaced the infected computers and there were no demand for ransom.
1:06 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he believes that the recent remark made by Yasuhiko Nishimura, the head of Japan’s Imperial Household Agency, is Nishimura’s own opinion.
Nishimura told reporters Thursday that he believes Emperor Naruhito is concerned that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics may cause a further increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
12:31 p.m. The British Olympic Association is still trying to convince some athletes to get vaccinated before the Olympics, chief executive Andy Anson said.
The BOA said earlier this month it was on track to ensure all athletes and staff were fully vaccinated before the Olympics. “We’re trying to convince them it’s the right thing to do,” Anson told the BBC.
9:42 a.m. A coach from Uganda who tested positive on arrival has been infected with the fast spreading delta variant, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters on Friday. She has requested a genome analysis on another team member who tested positive in Osaka to determine if it is also Delta variant.
Thursday, June 24
4:00 p.m. The head of Japan’s Imperial Household Agency said he believes Emperor Naruhito is concerned that the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics may cause a further increase in the number of coronavirus cases.
“I believe (the Emperor) is concerned that while there are voices of anxiety among the public, the holding (of the events) may lead to the expansion of infections,” Yasuhiko Nishimura said at a news conference.
Wednesday, June 23
6:40 p.m. A second member of Uganda’s Olympic team has tested positive for COVID-19, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK. The first, a coach, was diagnosed upon arrival in Japan for pre-games training on Saturday. The latest case involves an athlete, the report says.
Eight athletes were recognized as having had close contact with the infected coach and had been isolated at a hotel in Osaka. Earlier reports said the entire delegation had been fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca.
4:41 p.m. Tokyo 2020 unveils details of the lottery for Olympics tickets, as spectators are being limited to 10,000, or 50% of capacity, per venue.
Some 97 sessions including the opening and closing ceremonies — around 10% of all sessions — will be subject to the lottery, with the result to be announced on July 6. Ticket holders can request a refund from July 6 to July 15.
About 42% of tickets have been sold for the Olympics, and organizers are aiming to reduce the number to 35%.
10:24 a.m. Tokyo 2020 announces it will not sell alcohol at venues. “We decided not to sell alcohol so we can have a Games that prioritize the safety. [A sponsor] Asahi also agreed to our decision,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto tells reporters.
Tuesday, June 22
10:30 p.m. NBA star Stephen Curry will not play for the U.S. basketball team in Tokyo in order to rest for the next season of league play, San Francisco Chronicle reports, citing people familiar with the matter.
Curry plays for the Golden State Warriors in California. He has never appeared in the Olympics, according to The Chronicle.
8:30 p.m. A key face of the Olympic host city, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike, is taking this week off due to excessive fatigue, public broadcaster NHK reports. The governor’s absence from public duties comes with just one month to go before the games open.
4:00 p.m. Eight athletes from Uganda have been recognized as having had close contact with a coach who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Tokyo on Saturday. The athletes, who have been vaccinated, are currently in Osaka for pre-games training but will stay at a hotel for the time being.
2:15 p.m. The secretary-general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party thinks selling alcohol at Olympic venues might not be the best idea. “We need to considering banning it,” Toshihiro Nikai tells reporters. “It is important to draw a conclusion that is convincing for everyone.”
Booze restrictions have been a key element of government efforts to curb the virus under states of emergency. But a Kyodo News report on Tuesday said Tokyo Olympics organizers intend to allow at least some alcohol sales at venues. The report, which cited unnamed sources, said officials were looking at various precautions such as limiting the time of the sales.
3:54 a.m. The World Health Organization said it would discuss managing COVID-19 risks with Japanese authorities and the International Olympic Committee, after organizers announced some spectators would be permitted to attend the Tokyo Games.
Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s emergencies program, noted that infection rates in Japan have been falling, and said they compared favorably to other countries that were hosting large scale events.
Monday, June 21
5:27 p.m. A day after the Japanese government lifted the state of emergency in Tokyo and other prefectures, Olympic organizers decide on a spectator limit of 10,000, or up to 50% of capacity, per venue for domestic fans. The Tokyo Games open in just over a month. Read more here.
3:02 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the Olympics may be held without spectators if the COVID-19 situation in Japan worsens and he has to declare another state of emergency.
“When the declaration is needed, we will prioritize people’s safety while flexibly considering banning spectators,” Suga said.
Suga has said he wants fans in the stands at the Olympics. Organizers including the government and the International Olympic Committee are set to make a decision later in the day on how many spectators to allow.
12:16 p.m. The Indian Olympic Association sent a letter to the Tokyo organizing committee complaining stricter coronavirus restrictions against its athletes and those from other countries aimed at stemming the spread of highly contagious variants are “unfair and discriminatory,” according to local media.
The Indian Olympic body said that given Indian athletes will be fully vaccinated and will take PCR tests every day for a week ahead of their departure for Tokyo, being barred from interacting with anyone from other countries for three days upon their arrival would be “highly unfair,” according to the Press Trust of India.
10:00 a.m. Weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will become the first transgender athlete to compete at the Olympics after being selected by New Zealand for the women’s event at the Tokyo Games.
Hubbard will compete in the super-heavyweight 87kg category, her selection made possible by updated qualifying requirements.
9:00 a.m. A coach in Uganda’s Olympic team tested positive for COVID upon arrival in Tokyo on Saturday night. Uganda Olympic Committee President Donald Rukare said the coach, who has not been named, has no symptoms. The entire Uganda Olympic delegation had been fully vaccinated with two shots of AstraZeneca.
5:00 a.m. A new Asahi poll shows increased support for holding the Games this summer, but a majority of respondents still want a cancelation or postponement.
Asked what should be done about the Olympics: 34% said it should be held this summer (up from 14% in a May poll); 32% said it should be cancelled (down from 43%); and 30% said it should be postponed (down from 40%).
In the event of the Olympics taking place, 53% said there should be no spectators, while 42% said it should be held with limited numbers of fans.
Sunday, June 20
11:33 a.m. The athletes’ village for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics was unveiled to the media on Sunday around a month before the games kick off, featuring enhanced measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Around 18,000 athletes and officials are set to live together in 21 residential buildings inside the 44-hectare village in the Harumi waterfront district of Tokyo.
Saturday, June 19
7:00 p.m. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said Saturday that all live public viewing events during this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics in the Japanese capital will be canceled, due to the coronavirus pandemic. After holding talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, the governor told reporters that some of the six venues planned to be used for the screenings will instead be used for COVID-19 vaccinations.
Friday, June 18
1:30 p.m. Japanese Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa tells media that the domestic spectator limit at the Tokyo Games, to be determined this month, “will not exceed” the 10,000 the government has set as a restriction on large events.
1:15 p.m. Hidemasa Nakamura, games delivery officer for Tokyo 2020, tells reporters that the number of overseas officials involved in the games will be 41,000, one-third of the original estimate. Family members will number 1,200, down 60%.
Nakamura also says the IOC has offered an additional 100 medical staff to work at a clinic in the Olympic Village and other medical facilities for the games. On the fast-spreading Delta COVID-19 variant, Nakamura concedes it could be a concern during the Olympics, but vows appropriate steps will be taken.
“The athletes from India will be subject to a daily test for seven days before coming to Japan and will be asked not to conduct joint practices with other athletes from overseas at the village for three days after entering Japan,” Nakamura says.
Organizers are preparing guidelines for Japanese spectators. Nakamura says the rules could include instructions for fans to go straight to the venues and home again, refraining from shopping or other stops along the way.
10:00 a.m. Naomi Osaka will skip Wimbledon but plans to play at the Olympics, her agent told Kyodo News.
9:30 a.m. The Japanese government’s top medical adviser on COVID-19 suggests holding the games behind closed doors. Shigeru Omi, an infectious disease expert, told Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto that holding the games without spectators would be “least risky and desirable,” but to otherwise set tighter limits than the present 50% capacity in public gatherings.
1:00 a.m. Twenty-time tennis Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal has pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics and Wimbeldon this year after grueling competition at the French Open, saying he needs time to recuperate.
Thursday, June 17
9:00 p.m. The Japanese government has decided to lift the coronavirus state of emergency in nine prefectures from Monday, though seven areas including Tokyo and Osaka will remain under a quasi-emergency state through July 11, less than two weeks before the start of the Olympics.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tells reporters his government will keep working on COVID countermeasures to host a “safe and secure” games. “Now that we are facing the great challenge of the pandemic, we must unite and show the world that we can overcome this difficulty through the efforts and wisdom of the people,” Suga says.
2:00 a.m. India’s Olympic association chief says the national team aims for “double digit” medal wins in Tokyo despite the loss of competitive opportunities in the run-up to the games as a result of the pandemic.
“That is something that the athletes will miss but I don’t see that issue as specific to India,” Narinder Batra tells Reuters. “I don’t want to put any pressure on athletes but our expectation certainly is in double digits given the way we have planned and things are going on.”
Wednesday, June 16
9:00 p.m. The Japanese government is set to ease COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and other prefectures from next week, after it lifts a state of emergency ahead of the Olympic Games in about a month.
Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will consult with experts on Thursday on the lifting of strict restrictions. A quasi-state of emergency will be applied on seven prefectures beginning June 21, after the current state of emergency expires on June 20 in 10 prefectures, in a move to prevent another wave of infections before the Games. Read more here.
6:45 p.m. The Japanese government’s top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, says he is aiming to submit a proposal for the Tokyo Games to the International Olympic Committee before June 20.
The government is looking to allow up to 10,000 spectators at events in areas where it has lifted its COVID-19 state of emergency. But Omi tells reporters, “We’ve told the government that the spectator limit for large events should not be relevant to the Olympics.”
5:00 p.m. Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told reporters that discussions over the maximum number of spectators allowed at large events are not immediately applicable to the Olympics.
“We did not decide on the limit for the Olympics today. We don’t have the authority to decide that. For the Tokyo Games, a decision will be made by a five-party meeting based on the upper limit regulations for sports events in Japan, while taking into account the infection situation,” Nishimura said.
Tokyo Olympic organizers are expected to decide on spectators limit in a meeting of Tokyo Metropolitan and national government, Tokyo 2020, the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee later this month.
12:30 p.m. The arrival of Uganda’s Olympic and Paralympic team has been delayed. Around 20 athletes and coaches were originally scheduled to land in Japan on Wednesday for training in Izumisano city, Osaka Prefecture. They were reportedly unable to board their plane due to a COVID issue.
12:25 p.m. Jamaica’s training camps have been canceled, Tottori prefecture announced on Wednesday. The camps were originally slated to start in early July in Tottori city and Yonago city, but the Jamaica team on Tuesday evening told the prefecture it would be the best for the athletes to directly enter the athlete’s village.
12:22 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said there is “nothing decided” over spectator limits for the Tokyo Games. “We will discuss about the limits taking the limits of the domestic sport events into account,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
TV Asahi reported earlier that top government officials are reviewing options such as capping the number of domestic spectators at 5,000 or 10,000.
Tuesday, June 15
4:48 p.m. In survey of 9,163 companies conducted June 1-9 by Tokyo Shoko Research, 64% said the Olympics should be canceled or postponed — up from 55.9% in a February survey — while 35.9% said they should be held as planned.
1:15 p.m. Organizers of the Olympics will this evening unveil their latest “playbook” of rules to control the risk of COVID-19 infections.
12:10 p.m. A new poll by public broadcaster NHK shows increased support for holding the Olympics among Japanese voters. When asked in what way the Games should be held, 31% said they should be canceled versus 64% that said they should go ahead (32% with limited spectators, 29% with no spectators, and 3% as normal).
11:20 a.m. NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Shell said that the Games could be the most profitable Olympics in NBC’s history. “I think we’re pretty optimistic about both the ratings and the economics of the Olympics and advertisers have embraced it,” Shell said at Credit Suisse’s virtual Communications Conference.
10:21 a.m. In regards to the additional 20,000 Pfizer doses, Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told reporters that the government is aiming to offer the doses to those involved in the games as soon as possible. Marukawa also said the support from G-7 leaders is “reassuring.” With only 38 days to go before the games, “we will continue working on thorough COVID countermeasures until the last minute,” she added.
9:05 a.m. John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and chair of Tokyo 2020’s coordination commission, arrived in Japan on Tuesday morning. Coates will self-quarantine in a hotel in Tokyo for three days as part of COVID countermeasures, and will stay in the Japanese capital for the Games.
2:00 a.m. Coronavirus vaccine doses for an additional 20,000 people involved in the Olympics are expected to be secured, people familiar with the matter say, bringing the total to enough for 40,000 people.
The additional doses are expected to come from Pfizer.
Monday, June 14
4:17 p.m. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto welcomes the G-7 statement of support for the Olympics.
“We also would like to express our sincere thanks to Prime Minister Suga and the national government officials for their efforts to ensure the announcing of such a powerful statement,” Hashimoto says in a statement. “With 39 days to go until the opening of the Games, preparations are in their final stages, and we will be welcoming all athletes from all over the world to Japan, fully prepared to host a safe and secure event.”
12:08 p.m. Naomi Osaka earns her first Olympic berth for Japan with the release of the international tennis rankings used to determine automatic qualification for this summer’s Tokyo Games. Automatic entry will be awarded to the top 56 men’s and women’s singles players, with a limit of four per country.
Osaka withdrew from the French Open after revealing her battle with depression. The 23-year-old pulled out following the first round of the tournament after initially declining to take part in post-match press conferences.
10:00 a.m. In case you missed them, here are a couple of Olympic-related stories from the weekend.
Kaori Yamaguchi, a board member of the Japan Olympic Committee, tells Rurika Imahashi that the Olympics are not longer special. “From now on, we should think that Olympics are merely entertainment and business events,” she tells Nikkei Asia.
Nikkei Asia also looks that the growing health concern that is the mental wellbeing of visiting teams. Some countries are taking extra steps to keep athletes in a healthy state of mind.
Sunday, June 13
10:30 p.m. The Group of Seven said they supported the holding of the Tokyo Olympics this year, in a communique issued after a leaders’ summit in Cornwall, U.K. “We reiterate our support for the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19,” the communique said.
Friday, June 11
9:00 p.m. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has backed the Tokyo Olympics at a meeting with Japan’s Yoshihide Suga, Reuters reports, citing his Downing Street office.
“The prime minister expressed his support for the Tokyo Olympics, and welcomed Japanese efforts to ensure the games can take place safely,” a spokesperson says.
Johnson is hosting world leaders this weekend at the Group of Seven summit and called for stepping up global vaccine donations in a contribution to Nikkei Asia.
4:30 p.m. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto says organizers will start vaccinating staff and certain volunteers on June 18. The target will be 18,000 people including referees, Olympic Village staff, airport staff, doping testers, and some volunteers who work closely with the athletes.
Asked about the Group of Seven summit, she said that she would be “very grateful” if G-7 countries support the Olympics. The countries are expected to include support for Japan’s efforts to host the games in a joint statement, Kyodo News reported last week.
4:15 p.m. The Japan Federation of Medical Workers’ Unions issues a statement calling for a cancellation or postponement of the Olympics. The statement says the “collapse of medical care” has become “a reality.”
“Under these circumstances, the decision should be made to cancel or delay the Tokyo Olympics, which will mobilize medical personnel, move the flow of people, pull in people, and accept a large number of people from overseas.”
The issuers argue they represent those responsible for protecting lives and health. They “strongly protest the government’s stance of holding the Olympics in the midst of the spread of infection, and strongly urge the government to make a decision not to spread the risk of infection any further.”
2:01 p.m. Japanese Digitalization Minister Takuya Hirai says he instructed officials to coerce the developer of a smartphone app for monitoring the health of foreign visitors during the Olympics into cutting costs by threatening to withhold future government contracts.
Hirai was reported to have told senior officials of the Cabinet Secretariat in charge of the app project in April that they “would be better off threatening” the joint venture developing the app in order to achieve cost reductions. The venture partners include major Japanese information technology firm NEC Corp.
12:44 p.m. John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and chair of Tokyo 2020’s coordination commission, says a decision whether spectators will be allowed will be made at the end of June.
“I’d love to see [crowds] and I think the athletes would love to see it,” he tells reporters in Sydney. “I think the decision will be put off until a decision on the whole of sport at the end of the month. The national leagues are still going on…”
12:00 p.m. Japanese opposition leader Yukio Edano warns that the Olympics could cause an ‘explosive’ increase in COVID-19 cases, adding that the Games should be cancelled or postponed by a year.
“We could potentially see the risk of high mobility, high movement of people during that time because of the summer vacation and the Olympics,” he tells reporters at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. “If the Olympics do go ahead as planned, this could mean that… we see a domestic explosion of cases of the virus in August and September at an extremely high level even compared to what has been experienced until now. I think this is an extremely high risk.”
“The actual choices should be either postponing the Olympics for another year when it could be anticipated there could be some kind of effect from the vaccines, or cancellation of the games itself. The Japanese government should be negotiating with the IOC towards these options.”
12:35 a.m. Looking beyond this year’s games, the International Olympic Committee’s executive board will submit Brisbane’s bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics for approval in July, when athletes, sports federations and national Olympic committees gather in Tokyo.
Indonesia, Qatar, China and Budapest were among the interested and potential bids for the 2032 Olympics. IOC President Thomas Bach says after a board meeting that Brisbane’s approval does not mean competing bids have been ruled out for future games.
“These cities are still all in the process and they have confirmed that they want to continue this dialogue,” Bach says.
Competing cities had raised questions about John Coates’s dual role as vice president of the IOC and president of the Australian Olympic Committee. Bach says Coates was not involved in Thursday’s decision, with the IOC going so far as to cut Coates’s phone line when Brisbane was discussed.
Thursday, June 10
7:22 p.m. John Coates, a vice president of the International Olympic Committee and chair of Tokyo 2020’s coordination commission, will visit Japan on June 15, and IOC Chairman Thomas Bach will come to Tokyo ahead of the Games in July, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto tells reporters.
In line with Japanese government regulations, Coates will stay in his accommodation for three days after coming to Japan. and stay in the country until the event.
Muto said that Tokyo 2020 was considering vaccinations for Olympic volunteers, and would prioritize vaccinations for visiting dignitaries.
5:30 p.m. An Australian double silver medalist swimmer has withdrawn from qualifying for the Tokyo Games, citing not COVID-19 but her anger at “misogynistic perverts in sport.” Madeline Groves, who won her medals at the 2016 Rio Games, has complained about inappropriate behavior by men in the past, Reuters reports. Her move comes as Australia reckons with the fallout from allegations of sexual harassment and abuse across business and politics.
4:00 p.m. Australia’s Olympic athletics team and Canada’s Paralympic swimming team have canceled their pre-games training camps in Japan’s Wakayama Prefecture, public broadcaster NHK reports. This leaves the southwestern prefecture without any such training camps, and marks the latest in a string of cancellations as activities surrounding the games are pared down.
Chiba Prefecture, next to Tokyo, announced this afternoon that it is scrapping plans for public viewing events, following similar moves by the host city and neighboring Saitama Prefecture.
Meanwhile, organizers are considering banning alcohol in public areas of the Olympic Village, the Associated Press notes, though Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said on Wednesday it is “not conceivable” to prohibit alcohol in athletes’ rooms. Under Tokyo’s state of emergency, restaurants and bars have been asked not to serve it.
9:00 a.m. New Zealand Tourism Minister Stuart Nash tells Japanese broadcaster TBS that his country’s Olympic team is ready to participate in the Tokyo Games as planned, though he says it is unfortunate that overseas fans will not be able to go along. Back in January, the head of New Zealand’s Olympic committee had told Radio New Zealand that some athletes might choose to skip the games due to COVID-19 concerns.
Also in New Zealand, the government has backed inclusion of transgender athletes, Reuters reports. Critics say transgender competitors in women’s events have an unfair advantage. But Sports Minister Grant Robertson is quoted as saying, “If we can all agree that we want all New Zealanders to have the opportunity to be part of sport… I think that’s a good starting point, and then we can work form there.”
Transgender weightlifter Laurel Hubbard has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, pending nomination to the New Zealand team.
1:20 a.m. Discussions are still underway to secure the participation of North Korean athletes in the games, says the IOC. The hermit kingdom said in April that it would withdraw from this year’s Summer Games, citing COVID-19 concerns and questioning Japan’s pandemic preparedness.
Although discussions about “around a dozen athletes in nine to 10 sports” are ongoing, the IOC executive board yesterday decided to reallocate Olympic spots held for North Korean athletes.
“It got to the point where we had to make a decision on the reallocation of the qualified places because we do not want to jeopardize those places for other athletes that are waiting,” says James McLeod, the IOC’s coordinator for national committees.
1:00 a.m. The IOC aims to resume test events for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in September. Foreign athletes have so far been unable to participate in Beijing’s first test events, held last winter with Chinese athletes.
“We want to be sure that we use the games in Tokyo to gain as much information as possible when it comes to people coming from outside,” says IOC sports director Christophe Dubi.
“Testing the measures in Tokyo will allow us to use the policies when it comes to Beijing,” he says.
12:30 a.m. The IOC says about 80% of athletes and immediate entourage bound for Japan have been vaccinated, reaching a goal set by Tokyo and Lausanne at the last coordination meeting in May.
The third and final version of playbooks governing COVID countermeasures at the Tokyo games will be released next week, IOC sports director Christophe Dubi said.
Dubi spoke to reporters after the second day of executive board meetings, where host cities including Tokyo, Beijing and Paris reported on their progress.
The upcoming playbooks will contain details on the COVID testing regime for athletes, games officials, support staff and other guests, Dubi said.
Wednesday, June 9 (Tokyo time)
10:56 p.m. Olympic athletes will be subject to GPS monitoring as will members of the media, says Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto. He adds that the monitoring system will be used not to track every single movement of the Olympic participants but to retroactively trace them if an issue arises.
7:18 p.m. India’s Olympic athletes will wear unbranded apparel during the Games in Tokyo, the Indian Olympic Association said Tuesday, after dropping Chinese sportswear brand Li Ning as its official uniform sponsor, citing “sentiments of the people of the country.”
The announcement comes amid strained ties between India and China over a border standoff that led to a deadly clash in June last year. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed in the fighting. The border skirmish has led to growing calls in India for a boycott of Chinese companies.
6:15 p.m. A South Korean skeet shooter has been suspended for 12 years for bullying younger teammates, according to the country’s Yonhap News Agency, ruling her out of the Tokyo Games unless she wins an appeal. The report says Kim Min-ji, 32, has won several medals at the Asian Games.
4:30 p.m. During questioning in parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterates his vow to hold the Olympics in a “safe and secure” manner by combining precautions “one by one.”
Asked why the government is pressing ahead despite the apparent coronavirus risks, Suga replies: “It is my responsibility to protect the Japanese people’s lives and safety. The premise is that we won’t hold the games if we cannot protect our people.”
He stresses: “Organizers have reduced the number of people participating in the games to less than half the initial estimate of 180,000, and they are considering reducing more. I’ve heard that 80% of the participating athletes will be vaccinated. Foreign media will be strictly monitored and tested.”
Arguing against forging ahead with the Olympics, Yukio Edano, head of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, warns: “If lives are lost, we cannot get them back. Politics cannot take responsibility for lost lives, and the prime minister is not sufficiently aware of this fact.”
2:00 p.m. A legal expert says the International Olympic Committee cannot force Japan to go ahead with the games — and that Japan would probably not have to pay compensation if it canceled — based on a close reading of contract law.
Kiyoe Kado, an expert in civil law and professor emeritus at Tokyo’s Rikkyo University, argues in a Nikkei opinion article that only governments or courts can force another country to comply with a contract. She says the IOC, as a civil organization, lacks that power.
Kado says the host city contract does not specify liability in the event the Japanese side unilaterally breaks the arrangement. In such a case, the law governing the contract would be used to determine liability — stipulated to be Swiss law.
Under the continental law that governs Switzerland, as well as Japan, she says there is no obligation to pay damages if a contract cannot be fulfilled due to “reasons not attributable to the debtor” — a description that would fit the pandemic.
9:00 a.m. Australia’s national baseball team withdraws from the final Olympic qualifier, citing “insurmountable” challenges related to COVID-19. The decision comes a few days after Taiwan’s baseball squad made the same decision.
The event was originally set to be held in Taiwan this month, but due to the island’s coronavirus outbreak, it was moved to Mexico.
“The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete,” Baseball Australia chief executive Glenn Williams is quoted as saying on the organization’s website. “We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable.”
China had already pulled out of the qualifier before it was moved, for uncertain reasons. This leaves only the Netherlands, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic vying for the final slot.
5:00 a.m. The British Olympic Association will “do everything we can to get the entire team fully vaccinated before we depart for Japan,” the BOA says in a statement, saying it made the pledge to the Tokyo 2020 organizers.
As of Tuesday, “only 14% of the travelling party have yet to receive a vaccine, with the vast majority of those receiving their first dose of vaccine this week,” according to the BOA statement.
3:45 a.m. Just ahead of the Olympics, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has eased travel recommendations for more than 110 countries and territories, including Japan.
Tuesday, June 8
11:00 p.m. The IOC announces 29 athletes will compete in the games as a part of the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, made up of competitors who were selected from among refugee athletes currently supported by the IOC through the Olympic Scholarships for Refugee Athletes program.
Athletes whose country of origin is Syria take up the most slots on the roster with nine.
“We are extremely proud of you, and we thank you for all the energy you are bringing to the Olympics of unity,” IOC President Thomas Bach says in a live event.
The first-ever IOC Refugee Olympic Team, consisting of 10 athletes, competed at the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
8:30 p.m. Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto tells reporters that the organizing committee’s executive board did not discuss a cancellation or postponement at its meeting on Tuesday. “There was no talk about that whatsoever,” he says at a news conference that covers organizers’ plans to keep tabs on visiting journalists and efforts to secure medical staff.
3:16 p.m. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto says visiting Olympic media will be monitored using GPS to ensure they don’t visit places that they have not registered in advance. Foreign journalists will be required to refrain from using public transport in their first 14 days after their entry.
They will also be strictly required to refrain from using shared accommodation. Hashimoto says organizers will revoke media accreditation in case of breach of rules, and Tokyo 2020 will collaborate with hotels to monitor them.
Hashimoto says that organizers are aiming to start vaccinations for Olympic staff as early as mid-June. As for the medical system, 80% of required doctors and nurses have been already secured. Hashimoto also says Tokyo 2020 is aiming to secure the rest of the medical staff by the end of this month.
3:00 p.m. Osaki-cho in Kagoshima prefecture announces that it canceled pre-games training camps for athletes from Taiwan and Trinidad and Tobago due to the COVID situation.
12:45 p.m. Norihisa Tamura, Japan’s Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare, tells reporters that the country needs to hammer out a way to host the games without spreading the virus. He added that the prerequisite for holding the Games is to secure enough beds for COVID patients and contain new infections.
“If the flow of people increases during the games, the infection risks will also rise,” Tamura warns.
11:03 a.m. Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa tells reporters that postponing the games again will be “extremely difficult.”
She said that some pre-games training for overseas athletes have already started in Japan. Postponing the games would require athletes and organizers to secure venues and hotels additionally, and this makes it very difficult to delay the games, she adds.
11:00 a.m. Hitoshi Oshitani, one of Japan’s most senior virologists, says it is impossible to hold the Olympics without the risk of it being a super-spreader event.
In an interview with The Times, a U.K. newspaper, Oshitani of Tohoku University said “everybody knows” promises of a “safe Olympics” were impossible to make. Oshitani added that the Games risk introducing infection into Japan, especially from poorer countries were the pandemic was still raging.
10:00 a.m. Filipino-Japanese golfer Yuka Saso’s historic victory at the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship has energized the golf community in the Philippines and bolstered hopes for the country’s first Olympics gold medal. Read Cliff Venzon’s insight into golf’s new star here.
6:00 a.m. U.S. broadcaster NBC said in a statement that Olympics will go ahead, and it will present an “unprecedented” 7,000 hours of coverage over multiple networks and digital platforms over 17 consecutive nights. In a statement, NBC said it will be the “biggest media event ever.”
In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the IOC to show the games through 2020. In 2014, it added a $7.65 billion deal for the rights from 2021 to 2032.
4:05 a.m. A flashback to an earlier Olympics.
2:30 a.m. The U.S. is consulting with other countries on a “shared approach” to the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is quoted as telling a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing. He adds: “More on that in weeks to come.”
U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is among voices calling for a diplomatic boycott of next year’s games, a proposal in which athletes would attend but not heads of state.
Monday, June 7
6:45 p.m. Nikkei confirms earlier reports that a Japanese Olympic Committee official’s death at a Tokyo subway station this morning is being investigated as a suicide. Sources say that the 52-year-old accounting manager was witnessed jumping from a platform, but that no suicide note was found in his belongings.
5:30 p.m. Tokyo’s neighboring Saitama Prefecture, just to the northwest, has canceled public Olympic-viewing events at two locations over coronavirus concerns. Saitama Gov. Motohiro Ono announces the decision and expresses regret that fans will not be able to share the excitement of the games.
This follows an earlier decision by Tokyo to scrap plans for similar viewings in the capital’s Yoyogi Park.
2:30 p.m. A Japanese Olympic Committee staff member has died in an apparent suicide in Tokyo’s subway, according to a report by local broadcaster Nippon Television. The man was 52 and worked as an accounting manager. His death remains under investigation.
10:00 a.m. A new poll suggests a shift in Japanese public sentiment toward the Olympics, with 50% now saying they would hold the games this summer, though opposition and concerns about coronavirus measures remain strong.
A survey by Japan’s Yomiuri newspaper found 24% of respondents would hold the games with limited spectators while 26% would go ahead without audiences. Meanwhile, 48% said they would cancel, down from 59% in early May. But 63% still felt COVID-19 precautions on athletes and officials coming from overseas were insufficient.
Sunday, June 6
9:30 p.m. Japanese sprinter Ryota Yamagata sets a new national 100-meter record, Kyodo News reports. His time in a race in western Japan, 9.95 seconds, beats the nation’s previous record by 0.02. Yamagata won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics with Japan’s 4×100-meter relay team, and becomes only the fourth Japanese runner to finish a 100-meter race in under 10 seconds.
Saturday, June 5
6:00 p.m. The Tokyo 2020 organizers are denying a report that some corporate sponsors have proposed delaying the games, saying there has been “no such request,” according to Kyodo News.
The Financial Times on Friday reported that some sponsors had suggested putting off the event until later this year, when more fans might be able to attend.
5:15 p.m. Australia’s Olympic softball team — the first group of athletes to arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Games — has started its training camp, Kyodo News reports.
The team’s practice in Gunma Prefecture, north of Tokyo, was closed to fans and reporters to minimize the COVID-19 risk. The team has been vaccinated and will be tested regularly as a precaution, the news agency says.
Friday, June 4
11:45 p.m. Major Japanese sponsors of the Tokyo Olympics have called privately for the games to be delayed for several months more so that more fans can attend, the Financial Times reports, quoting two people as saying postponement would allow them to recover some value if it allowed spectators and greater movement around venues. Read more here.
7:20 p.m. The U.K.’s Olympic contingent will include mental health professionals, Reuters reports, citing The Times newspaper.
The report says 10 mental health experts will come along and monitor the team’s well-being under a sports psychologist and a doctor.
“We already took mental health very seriously but we recognize such issues have never been more acute in everyday life,” The Times quotes the British Olympic Association as saying.
The plan comes to light the same week Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, saying she suffered from depression and struggled with obligatory press conferences. Her decision raised global awareness of the mental and emotional strain on athletes.
6:00 p.m. Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee President Seiko Hashimoto brushes off criticism of the games, saying organizers have a “mission” to prepare. While a Japanese Olympic Committee board member earlier today wrote that the event had lost its meaning, Hashimoto suggests the global crisis gives “value and meaning to the games.”
She does say that if other organizers judge that going forward is difficult, “then it is also our mission to respond to such judgments.”
The comments come a day after Hashimoto said that “we cannot postpone again.”
4:20 p.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi intends to “connect” with the country’s athletes through an online conference in July, according to local media. Modi was reportedly briefed this week on measures being taken to send the team to Tokyo safely amid the pandemic.
1:30 p.m. With prominent voices making critical remarks about the games on Friday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga reiterates his intention to go forward. “By realizing a safe and secure games, we can deliver hope and courage to the world,” he says, according to Kyodo News.
12:35 p.m. Shigeru Omi, head of the Japanese government’s coronavirus advisory panel, says holding the games under a state of emergency “must definitely be avoided.”
Tokyo and several other municipalities are currently under a COVID-19 emergency declaration that was extended to June 20. IOC Vice President John Coates caused a stir last month by saying the games can still be held even if the emergency remains in place.
But Omi is not having it. “We should ramp up our effort to avoid [keeping] the state of emergency during the time left” before opening day, he tells media.
11:25 a.m. Across Japan, 479 municipalities are still planning to host training camps and post-games interaction programs, Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa tells reporters. Due to the pandemic, 122 municipalities have decided to cancel those programs as of Friday.
10:15 a.m. Kaori Yamaguchi, a Japanese Olympic Committee executive board member and former judoka, says the Tokyo Olympics “have already lost meaning and are being held just for the sake of them,” but that she believes it is too late to cancel.
In an opinion article published by Kyodo News this morning, she writes that canceling with only 49 days to go would “require too much energy to make and follow through with such a decision.” With public opinion strongly against the games but the International Olympic Committee determined to go ahead, she argues Japan has been “cornered” and is “damned if we do, and damned if we do not.”
“‘The power of sports’ is of little comfort to people worried about the medical situation and their future lives,” she says.
Yamaguchi warns that even if the games succeed at rousing emotions, they will leave a “bitter aftertaste.” But she expresses hope that “athletes will use this experience to grow into people who can speak out and debate.”
7:00 a.m. Japan’s government intends to cancel a reception for overseas dignitaries planned for Aug. 8, the day of the Olympic closing ceremony, Kyodo News reports overnight. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga was due to host the event at a Tokyo hotel with officials from the International Olympic Committee, but it will be scrapped over coronavirus concerns and as part of efforts to scale down the games, the news agency says, citing anonymous sources.
3:10 a.m. Kenya’s Olympic committee plans to go ahead with pre-training camp in Kurume, the Japanese city that earlier this week had communicated its withdrawal from the host agreement, Reuters reports.
“As of today, the information we have as of now is that we are on,” says Francis Mutuku, acting secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Kenya, in a telephone interview.
The Japanese Embassy in Kenya says that news of the cancellation was “erroneously reported” and that Kurume’s mayor confirms that the city will continue with preparations to receive the Kenyan athletes, paying special attention to COVID-19 protocols.
2:50 a.m. The International Olympic Committee has announced a new take on collectible Olympic pins: a line of digital memorabilia in the form of nonfungible tokens.
The digital pins will be available for purchase starting midmonth — or to be “earned” starting later this year by playing an Olympic-themed video game.
NFTs use blockchain technology to create one-of-a-kind digital assets. Such tokens are being used in the art world.
The effort sees the IOC partnering with San Francisco game developer nWay, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands, which claimed unicorn status after a recent funding round.
Thursday, June 3
7:00 p.m. Organizers reveal items to be used during medal ceremonies, including an official podium made from recycled plastic, Kyodo News reports — the latest sign of officials’ determination to forge ahead with 50 days to go.
The unveiling event at Ariake Arena, an Olympic venue on Tokyo’s waterfront, includes models sporting uniforms made from recycled fibers and carrying trays for the medals.
“For athletes standing on the podium and for others watching them, I believe [the ceremonies] will allow us to realize the value of holding the games during this time,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto is quoted as saying.
6:05 p.m. The head of the Japanese Olympic Committee expects around 95% of the nation’s Olympians will be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Kyodo News.
The JOC aims to inoculate about 1,600 athletes, coaches and staff with two doses before the games begin. Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita, who received a shot on Thursday, says the take-up rate has been better than expected since the program started on Tuesday, thanks to sports organizations emphasizing that getting jabbed is “not only to protect ourselves but also to not cause trouble to others.”
He acknowledges public opposition to the games and the need to ensure safety, but says athletes should not feel guilty for preparing.
3:05 p.m. A foreign athlete tests positive for COVID-19 while in Japan, but not one headed for the Olympics. The Japan Football Association says a member of Ghana’s under-24 national team had a positive test on Thursday, just two days before he was set to play against Japan in southwestern Fukuoka Prefecture. Although the infected athlete has been quarantined and his teammates have tested negative, officials have not decided whether to proceed with the Saturday match.
11:10 a.m. The president of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee has insisted the games must go ahead as planned, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot postpone again,” Reuters quotes Seiko Hashimoto as saying, citing an interview with Japan’s Nikkan Sports newspaper.
The former Olympian turned politician also rejected the possibility of canceling the games.
7:54 a.m. Taiwan’s baseball association tweets that it is withdrawing from the final Olympic baseball qualifier in Mexico later this month — an event the island was due to host itself before tighter COVID-19 border rules prompted a venue change.
The decision comes with 50 days to go before the games open in Tokyo.
“In the end, the mountain was too big to move,” says the Chinese Taipei Baseball Association — the name under which Taiwan competes. The tweet does not go into detail but includes charts on Taiwan’s coronavirus situation.
Baseball is one of Taiwan’s most popular sports. But Japanese public broadcaster NHK says the island’s professional league decided against sending its players to Mexico over health concerns. The association then considered sending an amateur squad, but Taiwan’s recent COVID-19 surge complicated the planning.
6:00 a.m. Looking ahead to the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year, American gold medalist speed skater Apolo Ohno says the U.S. should compete rather than politicize the event with a boycott.
“I believe that America as a team should go and represent the absolute best that we can,” Ohno tells Fox Business. “We try to win in every single circumstance and situation.”
He says the U.S. team should focus on the “purity of sport” in Beijing.
Wednesday, June 2
9:36 p.m. The Japanese city of Kurume has pulled out of hosting Kenya’s pre-Olympics training camp as local COVID-19 infections spread rapidly, Kenya’s Olympic committee says. Facilities for training camps have become vaccination venues, the Kenyan statement quotes Kurume authorities as saying, though Japan has provided no immediate confirmation.
Many of Kenya’s athletes were to arrive July 7 in the city on the southern island of Kyushu, but the committee says “alternative arrangements” are being made. More than 100 Japanese municipalities have scrapped plans to host teams from abroad.
7:30 p.m. Around 10,000 volunteers who had signed up to help out at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games have quit as of June 1, Japan’s broadcaster NHK reports, citing Tokyo organizers. Around 80,000 volunteers have been recruited. Those who had withdrawn did so with reasons such as concerns over the pandemic and personal issues, among others.
Tokyo Olympics organizing committee chief Toshiro Muto later confirmed that about 10,000 volunteers had withdrawn from the event.
6:30 p.m. Kyodo News reports, citing sources, that the G-7 will express support for the Tokyo Olympics in a statement after a summit in the U.K. this month.
4:21 p.m. The Tokyo Metropolitan government formally announces it will scrap a plan to hold public viewing of the Olympics in the city’s Yoyogi Park. Instead, police and firefighters will be vaccinated in the park from next month.
3:59 p.m. A member of the Australian women’s softball team’s coaching staff praises Japan’s handling of Olympic arrivals, in an interview with Nikkei Asia.
The team’s arrival yesterday was the first test of Tokyo 2020’s COVID protocols, which took five hours in Narita Airport as athletes and coaches passed through COVID tests, immigration and customs.
“We’re getting many questions from other sports about what immigration was like. The Japanese have set it up very well at the airport,” says Deidre Anderson, Softball Australia’s athlete wellbeing manager.
3:40 p.m. Shigeru Omi, head of the government’s coronavirus advisory panel, calls on organizers to strengthen control systems and downsize the games.
“Holding the games under the pandemic is usually unthinkable,” Omi tells parliament. “If organizers want the games to be staged, it is their responsibility to ramp up its control system while minimizing the scale of the games as much possible.”
1:52 p.m. South Korea asks the International Olympic Committee to pressure Japan to remove a reference to South Korea-controlled islands as Japanese territory on the Tokyo Games website.
The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee sent a letter late Tuesday asking the IOC to “actively mediate” the dispute, which has sparked outrage and protests in South Korea.
Tuesday, June 1
5:50 p.m. Some 200 people from seven Japanese sports organizations got vaccinated on Tuesday, JOC secretary-general Tsuyoshi Fukui and Senior Executive Board members Mitsugi Ogata say at a press briefing. They are the first of around 1,600 people including athletes, coaches and staff of the Japan Olympic Committee to receive doses.
5:16 p.m. South Korea summons Japan’s deputy ambassador to protest over a map on the Tokyo Olympics website that showed a set of South Korea-controlled islands as Japanese territory. The small islands, called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, have been at the center of a decades-long territorial dispute.
2:00 p.m. A promising Myanmar swimmer is calling on the International Olympic Committee to ban the Myanmar Olympic Committee from representing the country in the upcoming Tokyo Games, saying it “does not share Olympic values.”
Read Rurika Imahashi’s interview with Win Htet Oo here.
1:50 p.m. Japan’s Digital Transformation Minister Takuya Hirai tells reporters that the estimated development cost for a smartphone app to track foreign visitors’ whereabouts during the Olympics will be 3.85 billion yen ($35.2 million), down 47% from the original estimate. This is because functions are reduced due to the foreign spectator ban.
12:23 p.m. The Japan Football Association says it has canceled a soccer game between Japan and Jamaica after ten Jamaican players were unable to board flights to Japan due to reasons such as COVID testing methods.
11:29 a.m. Not many towns seem willing to follow Ota in hosting foreign athletes. Over a hundred local authorities have decided to cancel training camps, Japan’s Olympics Minister Tamayo Marukawa tells reporters. Usually, the camps give visiting athletes an opportunity to acclimatize to local conditions and interact with residents.
10:43 a.m. Australia’s women’s softball team lands at Narita Airport, becoming the first team to arrive in Japan for the Tokyo Olympics. The 23 athletes, along with 7 coaches and staff, arrived early to get a headstart on the required quarantine period. They will remain in a bubble in Ota, Gunma Prefecture, for two and a half months, with only practice games with local teams on their schedule.
10:10 a.m. Vaccinations for Japanese athletes starts Tuesday at Tokyo’s Ajinomoto National Training Center. Around 1,600 people including athletes, coaches and staff of the Japan Olympic Committee will receive doses.
8:17 a.m. With possible implications on whether she will appear at the Tokyo Olympics, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open after deciding to boycott post-match media duties, explaining she had been suffering from depression for almost three years.