NBA star Rui Hachimura will carry the Japanese flag at the Tokyo Games, Japanese Olympic chiefs said Monday, though fans may not be able to enter the stadium to watch the opening ceremony.
The Washington Wizards forward will carry the flag alongside two-time world champion Yui Susaki in the July 23 opening game of the Games postponed by the pandemic.
But in the face of growing concern about rising coronavirus cases, organizers have said they may need to reconsider attendance limits for Olympic events to reduce the risks of infection.
Hachimura, 23, whose father is Beninese and his mother is Japanese, said that carrying his country’s flag was “a great honor.”
“I would love for this to be an opportunity for the children and everyone else in Japan to see me and my teammates playing in the Olympics, and become even more interested in basketball and sports in general,” he said in a statement. .
In May, Hachimura criticized racism on social media, saying he receives racist messages “almost every day.”
The details of the opening ceremony have been kept under wraps, with local media reporting that it will be half an hour more to allow for Covid-19 countermeasures, such as distancing.
And with less than three weeks to go, it is still unclear how many, if any, seats will be filled at the national stadium.
Organizers have set a limit of 10,000 national fans, or half the capacity of each venue.
But Games President Seiko Hashimoto warned Friday that “not having spectators is an option.”
The coronavirus outbreak in Japan has not been as severe as in some countries, with around 14,800 deaths, but experts say another wave could stretch medical services as the Olympics begin.
Media reports said Monday that this week’s government is likely to extend anti-virus measures in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a decision to be followed by Olympic fans.
The current restrictions, which limit spectators at sporting events to 5,000, are due to end on Sunday, but could now be in effect during the Olympics, according to reports.
A ticket lottery for oversubscribed events will take place on Tuesday, but organizers have said it could be delayed.
No more tickets will be sold and spectators from abroad are prohibited.
Olympians began arriving in Tokyo, and on Sunday a Serbian rower tested positive for the virus at the airport.
A member of the Ugandan team also tested positive for the second time, after being discharged after a period of isolation.
On Sunday, a 53-year-old woman was arrested for spraying a runner in the national torch relay with liquid from a squirt gun.
The woman, who squirted the unspecified substance as the runner passed the flame, said she was opposed to the Olympics being held.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS To access The Philippine Daily Inquirer and more than 70 other titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download from 4am and share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.
For comments, complaints or inquiries, Contact Us.