All around the Games, empty seats have provided a reminder that these Olympics have been staged against the will of many in Japan.
Updated 25 Jul 2021

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.

Julia Sude and Karla Borger, of Germany, play against Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich, of Switzerland, during a women's beach volleyball match in the empty Shiokaze Park at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Julia Sude and Karla Borger, of Germany, play against Anouk Verge-Depre and Joana Heidrich, of Switzerland, during a women's beach volleyball match in the empty Shiokaze Park at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

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.

Spectators watch during a women's football match between China and Zambia at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Spectators watch during a women's football match between China and Zambia at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

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.

The United States plays Romania during a women's three-on-three basketball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP
The United States plays Romania during a women's three-on-three basketball game at the 2020 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP

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.

Estonia's Dina Ellermann, riding Donna Anna, competes during the dressage Grand Prix competition at an empty Equestrian Park at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Estonia's Dina Ellermann, riding Donna Anna, competes during the dressage Grand Prix competition at an empty Equestrian Park at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

Backdropped by empty seats at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field, Mexico's Luis Alvarez releases an arrow during the mixed team competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Backdropped by empty seats at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field, Mexico's Luis Alvarez releases an arrow during the mixed team competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

Carlos Edriel Yulo, of Philippines, performs on the rings during the men's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Carlos Edriel Yulo, of Philippines, performs on the rings during the men's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

Seats sit empty during the women's 49-kilogramme weightlifting event, at the Tokyo International Forum, during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Seats sit empty during the women's 49-kilogramme weightlifting event, at the Tokyo International Forum, during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, plays against Max Purcell, of Australia, during the first round of the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP
Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, plays against Max Purcell, of Australia, during the first round of the tennis competition at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP

Japan's Maya Yoshida, left, takes a penalty kick against South Africa as the stands sit empty during a men's football match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 22, 2021. — AP
Japan's Maya Yoshida, left, takes a penalty kick against South Africa as the stands sit empty during a men's football match at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 22, 2021. — AP

Lin Chen-hao, centre right, of Taiwan, and Shira Rishony, of Israel, compete in a women's 48-kilogramme match with no spectators attending at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP
Lin Chen-hao, centre right, of Taiwan, and Shira Rishony, of Israel, compete in a women's 48-kilogramme match with no spectators attending at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 24, 2021. — AP

Stands remain empty of fans due to Covid-19 restrictions on the north pitch of the Oi Hockey Stadium during a women's field hockey match between China and Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP
Stands remain empty of fans due to Covid-19 restrictions on the north pitch of the Oi Hockey Stadium during a women's field hockey match between China and Japan at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP

Asia D'Amato, of Italy, performs her floor exercise during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP
Asia D'Amato, of Italy, performs her floor exercise during the women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July 25, 2021. — AP


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