Gymnasts raised their arms and struck familiar poses — without the familiar explosion of cheers. Nothing to hear near the beach volleyball courts, either, except the piercing hiss of cicadas in surrounding trees.
All around the Tokyo Games, empty seats have provided a sullen, silent reminder that these unusual Olympics have been staged against the will of many in Japan, where the coronavirus pandemic is surging.
Only at a few far-flung events — like football matches in the northern prefecture of Miyagi — have fans been allowed to enter. Even then, capacities are severely limited.
A disco jockey spun some beats at the three-on-three basketball court, but the six competitors on the court were essentially his entire audience. No one watched at archery, weightlifting or field hockey, either.
One group of competitors who didn’t seem to mind: dressage horses at the Equestrian Park, who carried on without a care as they performed pirouettes and piaffes.
Header image: Kento Momota of Japan competes against USA's Timothy Lam during men's singles badminton match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP