‘Save People’s Lives’: Opening Ceremony Dampened By Anti-Olympic Protest Over COVID

(Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Caroline Kucera Contributor
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A large crowd gathered outside National Stadium in Tokyo during the opening ceremony Friday and demanded the 2020 Olympic Games games be canceled. 

The protestors voiced concerns for the potential impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic could have on the aftermath of the Olympics since over 11,000 athletes from all over the world are gathering in Tokyo to compete. 

Tokyo is currently under a state of emergency and experiencing a surge in cases.

Initially, the demonstrators were gathered outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building and chanted “no to the Olympics” and “save people’s lives,” according to Fox News. Some were also holding signs that read “cancel the Olympics.”

Reports of the size of the crowd vary from 50 attendees to over a thousand.

They shouted loudly with microphones through the first hour of the ceremony, USA Today reported. Their chants can be heard in many TV broadcasts of the event, including CNN’s, and journalists inside the stadium could still hear the commotion from the streets. 

“Every time there is a lull in the music at the Opening Ceremony, the noise from the demonstration against the Games happening outside becomes clearly audible,” Oliver Holt, a British sports journalist for The Mail on Sunday reported on Twitter

The pleas of the protestors are nothing new, as the games have been a hot topic of debate in Japan for months. 

One of Japan’s major newspapers, Asahi Shimbun, petitioned for the Olympics to be canceled back in May due to the rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. 

“Distrust and backlash against the reckless national government, Tokyo government, and stakeholders in the Olympics are nothing but escalating,” the paper wrote in an editorial according to Fox. “We demand Prime Minister Suga to calmly evaluate the circumstances and decide the cancellation of the summer event.”

Now that the games are finally here, opposition to the event is surging. (RELATED: Protester Shoots Olympic Torch With Water Gun In Japan)

Another Japanese newspaper, Kyodo News, conducted a poll last week that showed 87% of respondents expressed concerns about hosting the games during a pandemic, and over one-third of respondents said the Games should still be canceled. 

As of Friday morning, over 100 people connected to the Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19. Only 13 of the cases were athletes, 12 of whom resided in Olympic village at the time of their positive test, USA Today reported. 

Due to the COVID-19 kerfuffle as well as recent firings of top Olympic officials, some major sponsors of the Games like Toyota are no longer running TV ads during broadcasts to distance themselves from the event.

The majority of Olympic coverage in the U.S. will air on NBC. On Friday, the network will host a prime-time replay of the opening ceremony at 7:30 p.m. EST.