Tokyo Olympics: part of the Japanese finally took to the Games

The little girl with the fringe stamps her feet on the carpet of the Aqua City Odaiba shopping center, on Tokyo Bay. “Orinpikku” (“Olympic”): she keeps repeating this word, an object of fascination, focusing on each syllable. His way of trying to convince his parents to buy him the “Tokyo 2020” headband, on which the big-eyed mascot of the Olympic Games proudly sits.

Lost, Melesio and Masami, his parents, only validate the purchase of key chains and bath products. On this last weekend of the Japanese Games, they are part of the small crowd that gathers on the 120 m stand.2, the largest of the 21 official Olympic stores in Tokyo.

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The line to checkout winds its way down the hallway of the mall, drowned in the smell of popcorn from neighboring cinemas. It is difficult to pass through the shelves without having to bypass a customer choosing between fans, umbrellas, T-shirts, soft toys or even branded dog clothes. “Tokyo 2020”.

“This store is always crowded right now, when nobody paid attention to it before the Games”, notes Melesio, in his fifties. The newspaper Japan Times even reports that some stores have faced stockouts. And the website was temporarily inaccessible at the start of the Olympics, due to too much traffic.

Does this mean that the population, mainly opposed to the Games at the beginning – from 70 to 80% hostility, the polls said -, finally got caught up in the game? Difficult to say. Admittedly, no large-scale demonstration has punctuated the Games, but the oppositions are rarely reflected in the streets.

The fervor is expressed in the great outdoors

Several indicators still tend to show that fervor has seized part of the archipelago since the entry of the Olympic flame into the Tokyo stadium on July 23. No less than 70 million Japanese, more than half of the population, were in front of their televisions to watch the opening ceremony. “It was then that I realized that it was well and truly gone, that we were the host country, says Masami. The excitement arrived, we were happy to host these Games. “

Where it was possible to have an audience, the fervor was expressed in the great outdoors. In Fuji, 4,500 people came to watch the finish of the road race, and thousands had gathered at the edges of the tracks along the route. Same observation on the Izu mountain bike course. Or the passage of triathletes in Tokyo, where the curious were in theory not allowed. In front of the Olympic stadium protected by fences, there was not a day without a queue to take a photo in front of the rings.

Soon the Paralympic Games

The enthusiasm undoubtedly finds its source in the performances of Japan, which largely beat its record of medals: 58, including 27 in gold, against 41, including 12 in gold, in Rio. The host country was suddenly on the podium of nations, in the 3e place, behind the Chinese (2e) and Americans (1D).

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“Many are happy about this raid and no longer talk about the explosion of Covid cases”, says a photographer for a major Japanese newspaper. Because the epidemic also broke records during the fortnight, especially under the effect of the Delta variant, even if the trend was already on the rise before the Games. The government had to extend the emergency measures already in place in places.

No link with the Olympics, according to the organizers, who believe that the health bubble has been effective. But undoubtedly an indirect link: the Games, during this period of summer vacation, could have encouraged the inhabitants to relax and to gather to watch the events in groups, estimated Shigeru Omi, medical adviser to the government.

“I don’t think people have fundamentally changed their minds about the Games. They will gradually move on as soon as the event is over ”, observes a volunteer. Move on, until the Paralympic Games, which start on August 24.


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