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Tokyo Olympics' cycling road race draws crowds of spectators despite calls to stay away

People gather along the men's cycling road race course in Fuchu, Tokyo, on July 24, 2021. (Mainichi/ Masahiro Ogawa)

TOKYO -- The Olympic men's cycling road race attracted crowds of spectators along the course on July 24, despite the organizing committee's request for people to stay away due to COVID-19 concerns.

    The road race was one of the few Tokyo Games events held with spectators, and some 4,500 people in the stands at Fuji International Speedway in central Japan's Shizuoka Prefecture cheered on the finishing cyclists.

    Almost all events at the Tokyo Olympics are being held with no spectators in venues as a measure to prevent coronavirus infections. The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games allowed up to 10,000 fans at the finish line for the cycling road races as the state of infection in Shizuoka Prefecture is not as serious as in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Meanwhile, the committee called for restraint in cheering on cyclists along the courses -- 244 kilometers for men and 147 kilometers for women -- between the western Tokyo city of Chofu and Fuji International Speedway.

    Steel fences were installed along the course in front of Fuchu Station on the Keio Line near the starting point of the race and the games staff raised signs calling for people to refrain from watching the race next to the course. However, the area became crowded with many spectators. Along the route before the finish line, multiple rows of fans were seen.

    "It's impossible to stop people from gathering on the streets," said an executive at the Japan Cycling Federation, adding, "We did not expect this many supporters."

    Japanese cyclist Nariyuki Masuda, who finished the race in 84th place, thanked fans and said, "Even when I fell behind the pack and was riding alone they cheered me on, which helped me a lot." On the other hand, Tokyo 2020 organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto, who attended the finish of the men's race, commented, "We would like to hold events safely while asking that people make sure they follow the rules."

    (Japanese original by Yu Kishimoto, Sports News Department, and Richi Tanaka, Tokyo City News Department)

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