TOKYO : Gymnasts show how Olympics can pass virus challenges : Thirty athletes take part in first event at Olmypic venue since Games postponement.

Gymnasts from four nations tumbled, leapt and spun through a friendly meet in Tokyo on Sunday in a closely watched event aimed at showing the world Japan can safely carry out postponed 2020 Olympics in an era of corona virus.

Thirty gymnasts from Japan, the United States, China and Russia, including Japan’s triple Olympic gold medalist Kohei Uchimura and Russia’s 2019 World Champion Nikita Nagornyy, took part in the first international event at a Tokyo Olympic venue since the Games postponement in March due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

The one-off friendly event was seen was seen as a crucial trial run for having international athletes travel to and compete in Japan during the Olympics, which will bring more than 11,000 athletes to Tokyo July. A few international matches have been held recently, but remain rare.

An opening message from International Olympic Committee [IOC] head Thomas Bach highlighted the stakes for the meet, which seemed briefly threatened last week when Uchimura had what turned out to be false positive virus test

Lauding the ''Olympics values'' of friendship and solidarity - the names of teams into which the athletes were divided regardless of country or gender - Bach said the meet played a crucial role.

''You are also setting an example that sport can be organised safely even under ongoing health Restrictions,'' he said in a video message.

''........Giving us confidence in our preparation for the future events, in particular of course with an eye to the postponed  2020 Tokyo Olympic Games''

Spectators at the venue, designed by Kenzo Teange for the 1864 Tokyo Olympics, clapped enthusiastically but didn't cheer, mindful of posted rules against it  =except when Uchimura, who hadn't competed internationally for two years due to injury, completed an electrifying  horizontal bar routine.

Uchimura, whose ''Solidarity'' team edged ''Friendship'' to win, said the meet beyond sport.

''It's important to work towards the Olympics next year, but we must also be athletes who give you hope and dreams,'' Uchimura said. ( Reuters )


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