TOKYO — Hundreds of people gathered outside Japan’s National Stadium on Friday night, some to protest the holding of the Olympics in the nation’s capital.
The protest grew as the Opening Ceremony was set to commence a couple hundred yards away. On a street corner, surrounded by police, a core group of protesters chanted and yelled.
The gist of the main chant, according to a Japanese man who translated the message into English: “We don’t want to have the Olympic Games in this country!”
Another chant was simpler: “No Olympics!”
It’s unclear how many of the hundreds gathered opposed the Olympics, and how many had come to the stadium to soak in the scene from outside. No spectators were allowed into the Ceremony. Another Japanese man on the south side of the stadium, who wished not to give his name, told Yahoo Sports that he had come “to feel it.”
But public opinion polls have shown that a majority of Japanese citizens oppose the holding of the Games, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The most vocal of them gathered at a corner to the southwest of the stadium, along the 418, on Friday. One led chants through a megaphone. At least one played a percussion instrument along with the chants. A few held banners.
Police formed a line in front of them, and directed cars and foot traffic while containing the protest. At one point, two separate groups of a dozen-plus policemen walked down the stairs from the stadium, toward the street, though not directly to the street corner where the protestors gathered.
Security guards did not let reporters who were credentialed for the ceremony leave the stadium grounds to cover the protest. Olympic organizers have barred foreign media from interviewing citizens outside of Olympic venues.
The chanting continued for well over an hour, before and during the Ceremony. The fireworks that marked its commencement could be seen and heard from outside. The protesters continued chanting, passionately, unperturbed.
At one point, entire blocks on the west side of the stadium were crammed with people. Police seemed to engage in some minor, non-violent confrontations with citizens, mostly to keep the intersection clear, but the protest was peaceful.
It lasted for more than two hours, then died down, leaving the street mostly quiet. Some locals stuck around to watch what they could of the ceremony from outside.
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