Kai Koyama was standing outside Tokyo's Olympic Stadium as fireworks burst overhead during the opening ceremony but unlike many of those around him he wasn't cheering, but protesting. For months, polls showed strong opposition to the Games in Japan, which only grew as virus cases surged and the country's vaccine program got off to a sluggish start.
But since the opening ceremony, sentiment seems to have softened. More than half of the city's residents watched the opening extravaganza on TV and long lines have formed by the Olympic Stadium as people wait to have their photo taken with the Olympic rings.
Japanese athletes have won a record number of gold medals and shops selling Games merchandise have reported a surge in sales. None of that sways Koyama and other long-time opponents of the Games, who continue to stage demonstrations, even if they tend to draw just a few dozen people. "Lives are more important than medals!" chanted demonstrators outside Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's office in Tokyo on one recent evening.
Koyama was among them, urging Suga to cancel the Olympics and focus on Japan's latest surge in corona virus cases, which has put Tokyo and other regions in a state of emergency. "I'm so angry," the painter, in his 40s, told AFP. "We are in an emergency situation... people are dying every day. but the Olympic Games are still going on."
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