Japanese police have charged a woman with attempting to extinguish the Olympic flame with a water pistol as anti-Games sentiment festers in the country, with organizers mulling new restrictions on fan attendance.
Kayoko Takahashi was captured in footage which has since spread around social media apparently attempting to put out the flame with a child’s water gun toy as the torch was being run through Mito, the capital of Japan’s Iberaki prefecture.
The brief clip shows the 53-year-old protestor shooting water at the torch as it made its way past her, shouting: “No Olympics” and “Stop the Games” – but Takahashi was unsuccessful in her bid to put out the flame, as the runner holding the torch passed her without any further incident.
According to reports, she was then detained by a member of the security team and later arrested by police.
Here is footage of the moment when an anti-Olympics protester in Japan squirted water at the #OlympicTorchRelay to symbolically snuff out the #Tokyo2020 Olympic torch. Police swarmed her & she was detained. Ibaraka Prefecture. HT @emi_onuma1_16 pic.twitter.com/gcsdk3zED1
— Jules Boykoff (@JulesBoykoff) July 5, 2021
The flame is seen by many as a symbol of Olympic omnipresence – but has indeed been extinguished on several occasions in the past, for both deliberate and accidental reasons.
Takahashi’s protest ahead of the Tokyo games reflects a wider opposition in the country to weeks-long event progressing as epidemiologists report concerning trends with relation to the spread of Covid-19 in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan – amid fears that an influx of foreign athletes and support staff could lead to a spate of increased infections.
Recent estimates suggests that just 14% of the Japanese population are vaccinated against Covid-19 – while an opinion poll conducted in recent weeks suggested that as many as 80% of the Japanese population oppose the Olympics taking place this summer, one year after it was first delayed due to the onset of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, with just two weeks remaining until the start of the games organizers are mulling over a ban on spectators attending events throughout the event.
It was announced last month that 10,000 local fans would be permitted to attend – but those plans appear to have suffered setback after public opposition.
“Politically speaking, having no spectators is now unavoidable,” Japan’s ruling party said via Reuters, while there have also been reports that Tokyo’s state of emergency will be extended until August 22.
So far, Japan has recorded more than 800,000 cases of Covid-19 and 14,800 deaths since the onset of the pandemic – but public concerns are growing because of a perception of there being a slow rollout of the vaccine.
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