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Hundreds of barred fans crowd outside venue to watch BMX competition at Tokyo Olympics

A crowd gathers on Ariake-kita Bridge in Tokyo's Koto Ward to see the cycling BMX competition, on Aug. 1, 2021. (Mainichi/Keigo Kawasaki)

TOKYO -- While spectators have been barred from most events at the Tokyo Olympic Games due to the pandemic, information about spots where people can see inside the venues is apparently circulating, attracting crowds.

    On Aug. 1, hundreds of people were seen applauding from Ariake-kita Bridge in Tokyo's Koto Ward as the cycling BMX freestyle park finals were held at the nearby Ariake Urban Sports Park.

    The outdoor venue is visible from the bridge about 200 meters away, and athletes executing flips and other tricks could be seen through the gaps between the makeshift stands. The crowd -- occupying half of the approximately 6-meter-wide sidewalk -- was packed so close together that people's shoulders almost touched. Police officers were seen controlling traffic, with one saying, "A bike is coming. Please clear the path."

    Members of the crowd took pictures with smartphone cameras, zooming in the competition scenes, and also watched a livestream broadcast simultaneously. Though everyone was wearing masks and kept the cheering low-key, exultant shouts erupted when competitors pulled off big tricks.

    A 72-year-old man from the capital's Minato Ward who was on the bridge with his wife joyfully said: "We went to see the triathlon a little while ago. We came here today to see the (BMX) cycling because we had heard it was visible from this spot. This is a precious opportunity to see an event live.

    According a 53-year-old man who was holding Japan's national flag for those at the venue to see, information about spots outside the venues from which Olympic competitions are visible has been circulating among some fans. As the BMX competition could easily be seen from Ariake-kita Bridge, people have apparently dubbed it "the bridge of hope." He commented, "Everyone is wearing a mask, and refrains from speaking, too. I'm also vaccinated. I'm thinking about going other places where I can watch competitions."

    Many spectators were also seen in the concourse of the nearby Ariake-tennis-no-mori Station on the Yurikamome Line on July 30, when the cycling BMX racing finals were held.

    Masanori Takaya, spokesperson of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, commented, "I have mixed feelings (about fans watching the events outside the venues). I think perhaps many people were waiting for the games, and we are encouraged by the fact that people were looking forward to them." He continued, "Considering the current situation (including coronavirus infections), we have no choice but to continue to urge strongly that people watch the games on TV at home. Even if you show up around the venues, you will be asked not to remain there by security staff."

    (Japanese original by Keigo Kawasaki and Yoshikazu Takeuchi, Tokyo City News Department)

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