The welcome extended to Japan’s Olympic athletes at the London Games seems not to have lasted too long. In what appears to be an organizational blunder, Japan’s athletes were shown the exit door, just minutes after appearing at the opening ceremony.
The early exit has miffed fans back home all the same, sparking a slew of posts on microblogging sites and even prompting comments by politicians. Some of them wondered how it was possible that Japan’s athletes could be denied their chance to revel in an unforgettable night of Olympic pageantry.
A Japan Olympic Committee spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that the entire delegation was mistakenly led out of the stadium. Athletes have the option to leave after the parade of nations if they don’t want the late-night festivities to tire them out and about 30 of the Japanese contingent had requested to go home early. But amid some confusion, all 44 followed their guide out the door.
Once out, they weren’t allowed back in.
The vexed and delayed reaction came after a Japanese blogger who attended the ceremony posted an entry on Tuesday about his experience. The visitor wondered why the entire Japanese delegation was led out of the stadium after barely rounding the track, while the competitors of other countries were trotted towards an area where they could enjoy the show. Accompanying pictures showed the Japanese athletes being guided toward a one-way exit.
The early departure didn’t smell right to Japanese Olympic fans on Twitter. Many cried foul play by the London organizers. The Japanese word for “failure” trended throughout most of the afternoon and soon became the root of conversation threads on online message boards. Tweets were huffy and expressed disappointment on behalf of the athletes who were denied the chance to sing-a-long to “Hey Jude.”
Then Tokyo Vice Governor Naoki Inose entered the fray, saying he’d “like to confirm” what happened. On Wednesday, Kouta Matsuda, a member of parliament, dedicated a blog entry of his own to the matter after he called Japan’s sports ministry to get to the bottom of the confusion.
To be sure, many athletes don’t choose to attend the opening ceremonies at all because they want to focus on competing.
In fact, only 15% of the 293 athletes representing Japan attended the ceremony on Friday. While the JOC has pointed out the incident to the London Organizing Committee, the spokesman said the JOC doesn’t intend to lodge a complaint.
So what about the slighted athletes themselves? They appear to be more concerned with winning medals than watching fireworks. The spokesman said none of them has complained.