On Sunday, more than 2,000 fans watched thirty athletes from four countries take part in the first international sporting event to take place in a Tokyo 2020 Olympic venue since the Games’ postponement in March, said a news release.
“It was a return to competition on November 8 for 30 gymnasts from the United States, Russian Federation, People’s Republic of China and hosts Japan.
“Held at Yoyogi National Stadium, a venue which will host both Olympic and Paralympic events for Tokyo 2020, the Friendship and Solidarity meet was the first time an international sporting event had taken place in Japan amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The event which was organised by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) and hosted by the Japanese Gymnastics Association (JGA) was a showcase of international camaraderie.
“The meet – which was not a Tokyo 2020 event – drew 2,094 fans from all ages, with some even waiting outside the venue patiently from 9:30 a.m.
“Present at the event were members from a fan group of Japan’s UCHIMURA Kohei, who is currently the most-decorated male all-around gymnast.
“The group, which consisted of over 20 members from across Japan, had been following the three-time Olympic champion’s competitions closely, including his performance at All-Japan Senior Championships back in September.
“The Friendship and Solidarity meet saw Olympians and World Champions competing including 2019 Men’s All-Around gold medallist Nikita Nagornyy.
“Nakayama believed Sunday’s event would be the first step towards hosting an Olympic Games under pandemic.
“Minister for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Game HASHIMOTO Seiko, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology HAGIUDA Koichi and Tokyo Governor KOIKE Yuriko were also in attendance.
“After the competition was over, athletes took photos with each other – Uchimura and Nagornyy proved popular among younger gymnasts who participated.
“During the Closing Ceremony of the event, each nation had a representative speak about the competition.
“With the Olympic Games on the horizon, the 2019 World Championships in October last year was the last major event for many athletes before competitions halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
During the Opening Ceremony, there was a surprise video message from International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach.
“Because of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic we are all living with much uncertainty. In these difficult times we need the Olympic values of excellence, respect and especially friendship and solidarity more than ever.
“This is why the Friendship and Solidarity competition comes at a perfect time.
“With this competition, you [athletes] are also setting an example that sport can be organised safely even under the ongoing health restrictions.
“This is a very important thing for the entire world, giving us confidence in our preparations for future events – in particular of course, the postponed Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
“What better demonstration than this, than celebrating Friendship and Solidarity in sport at the iconic Yoyogi National Gymnasium were so much Olympic history was made and will be made again next year.”