Tokyo Olympics: fury over unmasked Japanese fans greeting Chinese table tennis team

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Footage of three unmasked Japanese fans approaching the Chinese table tennis team at a Tokyo airport has triggered an online backlash in China over enforcement of Covid-19 rules in Japan.

In the video posted by China-based online news site Kankan News on Sunday, the Japanese fans followed the Chinese table tennis Olympians as they walked through the arrivals hall at Narita International Airport on Saturday.

Two asked to take photos with the team, while the third live-streamed the scene as he approached Liu Shiwen, an Olympic gold medallist and five-time World Cup champion.

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The fans had masks on but had pulled them down from their faces.

They also appeared to ignore a request in Japanese to comply with social distancing rules.

According to Kankan News, the airport was “in a mess” as the Chinese delegation arrived.

Unmasked Japanese fans approach the Chinese table tennis team at Narita International Airport. Photo: Weibo
Unmasked Japanese fans approach the Chinese table tennis team at Narita International Airport. Photo: Weibo

“Not only the press, but also the public, failed to keep a 1 metre or 2 metre distance required by the International Olympic Committee,” a reporter said.

Internet users were swift to weigh in on Chinese social media.

“Is this a Japanese tactic to spread the virus to our Chinese athletes to win the events?” one popular commenter wrote.

Another said: “How does Japan dare to insist on hosting the Olympics with such poor enforcement of rules?”

Chinese athletes, coaches and staff from four sports – table tennis, women’s football, rowing and archery – arrived in Tokyo on Sunday, a day after the first positive coronavirus case was reported at the Olympic Village.

Games organisers said the patient was from overseas and not an athlete.

The first cases among athletes were two South African football players who arrived in Tokyo on Friday.

Around 11,000 athletes along with thousands of staff will be housed in the Olympic Village on Tokyo Bay.

On Tuesday, IOC president Thomas Bach called Tokyo the “best ever prepared city” to host the Olympics.

The people of Japan could be confident that the Olympic committee was sparing no effort to ensure the event was “safe and secure”, Bach said.

The Olympics will start on Friday as Tokyo braces for a fifth wave of coronavirus cases.

The Japanese capital recorded 1,008 daily coronavirus cases on Sunday, topping the 1,000 mark for the fifth straight day.

The six members of the Chinese table tennis squad will be led by women’s world No 1 Chen Meng and 32-year-old Ma Long.

Since table tennis debuted at Seoul in 1988, China has won 28 of the 32 gold medals on offer.

But the pandemic has thrown up challenges this year such as new rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus, making preparations “extremely difficult”, according to Chinese team coach Liu Guoliang.

“We didn’t expect some epidemic rules like not wiping the match table with your hand, or not blowing [on the ball],” Liu told state broadcaster CCTV.

The table tennis competitions get under way on Saturday.

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