The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is due to kick off on Friday against a backdrop of climbing coronavirus cases and rising tensions in Japan.
Already, more than 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases have been linked to the Games, with one person recently testing positive in the athletes village.
It points to troubling times ahead for a host nation that has the world’s highest proportion of elderly citizens and experienced daily case numbers above 6000 in May, never mind one that has vaccinated less than a quarter of its residents.
But despite concerns over a potentially disastrous COVID outbreak, the Games are going ahead under strict quarantine rules.
Here’s what you need to know.
When do the Games start?
The rescheduled Games are due to run from July 23 to August 8, and the Paralympic Games will run from August 24 to September 5.
Some competitions like football and softball will start two days before the opening ceremony on Friday.
Although the Olympics are taking place in 2021, they are still being referred to as “Tokyo 2020”, mainly because all the official merchandise had already been organised.
How can I watch it?
The Seven Network will broadcast the Tokyo Games free to air, with coverage spread across Channel 7, 7TWO and 7Mate.
Seven will also live-stream all the action via the 43 channels on the 7plus app and its website.
Is there a big time difference?
Australian Eastern Standard Time is only one hour ahead of Japan.
When is the first Australian competing?
The softball team is the first to represent Australia, and will play at 10am AEST on Wednesday, with its opening-round game against Japan.
At 9.30pm that night, the Matildas play their first Group G football match against New Zealand.
The mood in Japan
Australian teacher Tina Dawson spent the past 18 months living and working in Japan before flying home to Western Australia on July 8.
“Every single person I spoke to in Japan was against the Olympics occurring,” Ms Dawson told The New Daily.
She pointed to four key reasons why:
- Many Japanese people were scared of foreign athletes and their crews bringing new COVID variants into the country
- Many were worried about a super-spreader event
- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has failed to control the spread of COVID in Japan, especially in big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto
- Many Japanese were under the impression the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had “bullied Japan into hosting the Olympics”.
“Hardly anyone turned out to the Olympic torch relay,” Ms Dawson said.
“That was partly because of COVID, but partly because they think the Olympics shouldn’t be going ahead, and didn’t want to be seen supporting the Olympics.”
Anti-Olympics protests are frequent in Japan, with about 83 per cent saying they want the events cancelled in a poll conducted in May.