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NBA star Rui Hachimura will carry the Japanese flag at the Tokyo Games, the Japanese Olympic leaders said on Monday, although fans may not be allowed into the stadium to watch the opening ceremony.
The Washington Wizards forward will carry the flag with two-time world champion wrestler Yui Susaki in the July 23 opener for the postponed pandemic Games.
But with growing concern over the increase in coronavirus cases, organizers said they may have to rethink the limits for participation in Olympic events to reduce the risk of infection.
Hachimura, 23, whose father is Benin and mother is Japanese, said carrying his country’s flag was “a great honor”.
“I would like this to be an opportunity for the kids and everyone in Japan to watch me and my teammates play the Olympics, and get even more into basketball and the sport as a whole.” , he said in a statement.
In May, Hachimura spoke out against racism on social media, saying he received racist messages “almost every day.”
Details of the opening ceremony have been kept under wraps, with local media reporting that it will take another half an hour to enable Covid-19 countermeasures such as distancing.
And with less than three weeks to go, it’s still unclear how many seats, if any, will be filled at the national stadium.
The organizers set a limit of 10,000 national fans, or half the capacity of each site.
But Games President Seiko Hashimoto warned on 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 said on Monday that the government this week was likely to expand anti-virus measures in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a decision on Olympic fans to follow.
The current restrictions – which cap the number of spectators at sporting events at 5,000 – are due to end on Sunday but could now be in place during the Olympics, according to reports.
A ticket lottery for the oversubscribed events is due to take place on Tuesday, but organizers have said it could be delayed.
No more tickets will be sold and overseas spectators are prohibited.
Olympic athletes started arriving in Tokyo and on Sunday a Serbian rower tested positive for the virus at the airport.
A member of the Ugandan team has also tested positive for the second time, after being released after a period of isolation.
A 53-year-old woman was arrested on Sunday for spraying a national torch relay runner with liquid from a water pistol.
The woman, who squirted the unspecified substance as the runner passed with the flame, said she was opposed to holding the Olympics.
Â© 2021 AFP