TOKYO (Reuters) – Hundreds of residents braved Japan’s scorching summer heat to gather along the streets of the Olympic women’s cycling road in Fuchu, on the outskirts of Tokyo, on Sunday, resisting calls to avoid the Games due to the threat of COVID-19 infection.
With the Japanese capital in its fourth COVID-19 state of emergency as infections surge, organisers this month banned spectators from all but a handful of venues and asked the public to stay away from cycling, marathon and other outdoor events.
Ignoring those requests, and those of volunteers bearing signs dissuading people from gathering, residents such as 72-year-old Komuro Masaka said it could be their only chance to see an Olympic event.
“They aren’t allowing spectators now, but since Fuchu has this road where we can watch the race from, I thought this may be the last chance I would have in my life to see the Olympics in Tokyo. I’m really looking forward to it,” said Masaka, clutching a Japanese national flag.
The race started at 1 p.m. local time (0400 GMT) and spans a total of 137km across the greater Tokyo area, passing near a shrine and shopping centre in Fuchu.
“This was the first Olympic event I’ve ever seen. I was very surprised that it’s so powerful,” 17-year-old high school student Rintaro Saumaro said.
On Saturday, thousands also gathered https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/cycling-road-race-rare-chance-fans-spectatorless-games-2021-07-24 to watch the men’s road race.
(Reporting by Joseph Campbell; Editing by Peter Rutherford)