Cheerleaders from the “All Japan Cheer Organization” perform in protective masks due to COVID-19, to cheer people up in front of Shimbashi Station, one day before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan July 22, 2021 REUTERS/Androniki Christodoulou
July 22, 2021
By Chris Gallagher
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese cheerleaders danced and waved pom poms outside a Tokyo train station on Thursday to show their support for Olympic athletes the day before the pandemic-postponed Summer Games finally get underway.
“Let’s support them with all our strength!” head cheerleader Kumi Asazuma shouted to passers-by outside Shimbashi Station as the four-person squad clapped and kicked their legs to the beat of Tony Basil’s 1980’s classic “Hey Mickey”.
Squad members held up signs saying “To all athletes”, “Fight!”, and “Tokyo 2020” with an image of the Olympic rings, as they performed in the blazing sun with temperatures already topping 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) before 9 a.m.
The group from the All Japan Cheer Organisation performs regularly outside rail stations in the Tokyo area to lift the spirits of morning commuters, but Asazuma said they wanted to give a special performance on the eve of the Games’ opening ceremony.
“The Olympics and Paralympics are really once every four years, this time they’ve been delayed by a year and a lot has happened, but they open tomorrow and we wanted to give our support,” Asazuma told Reuters after the performance.
“There may not be spectators in the venues but we want to send the message that ‘everyone around the world is rooting for you,’” she said.
Spectators are barred from most events and Tokyo is under a state of emergency as COVID-19 cases surge in the capital.
Foot traffic by the station was thin on Thursday as it was a national holiday but a handful of people stopped and braved the heat to watch the cheerleaders.
“I see them trying hard in this environment so watching them makes me want to do my best also,” said Takanori Okada, 45, who is self-employed.
Some competitions already started on Wednesday including softball and soccer. The Tokyo Olympics run through Aug. 8, and the Paralympics are scheduled from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
(Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)