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Postponed Tokyo Games disappoint some while others express understanding amid crisis

The Japan National Stadium, center, is seen as the sun sets in the background from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on March 24, 2020. (Mainichi/Kaho Kitayama)

In response to the agreement between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, some of those involved with the games expressed a loss of hope, while others showed understanding under the circumstances.

    Ryoji Imai, 42, who is involved in the vitalization of a shopping arcade in the city of Saitama in Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo, where the planned venues for soccer and basketball are located, lamented the postponement of the games. "The local economy has suffered quite a bit from the novel coronavirus, and sales have fallen across the board with the cancellation of local events and requests for people to refrain from going out," he said. "I'm disappointed, because we were looking forward to the positive economic effects of the games. Our last hope has disappeared."

    A 55-year-old man who works at a private university in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward won a lottery for a total of eight tickets to baseball and basketball at the Olympics, and had purchased them for approximately 300,000 yen. He had planned to go watch with his twin children and his wife, but does not yet know what will happen to his tickets, now that the games have been postponed.

    "Under the circumstances, it (the postponement) can't be helped, but I hope they make considerations for ticketholders so that they can go see the events. If that's not possible, I hope we are refunded," he said.

    Some people with disabilities who had been looking forward to the Paralympics also accept that a postponement was "unavoidable." Ayami Azemoto, 30, of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, who has impaired vision, has been conducting sensitivity training about disabilities for volunteers for the Olympics and Paralympics. Now that the games have been postponed, she said, "On the one hand, I'm worried that the momentum we've gained toward an inclusive society may wane, but on the other hand, because we have more time now, we can have more people think about inclusivity and diversity."

    Kentaro Katayanagi, a 22-year-old third-year university student living in the Saitama Prefecture city of Kawaguchi, had been registered to volunteer at the games in the summer of his fourth and final year of university. "If the Olympics are going to be held once I'm in the workforce, I don't know if I'll be able to take time off (to volunteer). But I did see on the news that there were athletes who wanted a postponement, so I guess that's fair."

    Olympic fans took the news calmly. Forty-three-year-old Kazunori Takishima of Tokyo's Shibuya Ward, who works in the real estate industry, has gone to see every Olympic Games since the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. "I wonder if the new coronavirus will have calmed down by a year from now," he said. "The Olympics is a festival of peace. If a year from now, we can watch the Olympics with smiles on our faces, it will be 'the world's reconstruction Olympics.' I hope it turns out that way."

    Takishima said he had been looking closely at Olympic trials and athletes set to compete for their respective countries. "It would be heart-wrenching if athletes who have won a ticket to compete in the 2020 Olympics are unable to compete in the delayed games. It would be nice if the postponed games could take place at a time when trials and qualifiers do not have to be redone."

    Kyoko Ishikawa, 50, a company president from Tokyo's Suginami Ward who has gone to watch all seven summer Olympics since the 1992 Barcelona Games, said, "It's not like the games were canceled. And under the current circumstances, I'd like to respect the decision to postpone."

    Ishikawa has a ticket for wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics, but said, "I'd rather go to an Olympic Games in which people from all over the world are satisfied rather than amid uncertainty and concern."

    (Japanese original by Haruna Okuyama, Buntaro Saito, Tomoko Igarashi and Shohei Oshima, Tokyo City News Department; and Koichi Ogino, Osaka City News Department)

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