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Pray for Covid-hit Olympics, Christians urged

23 July 2021

Opening ceremony takes place tonight in Tokyo; tight Covid restrictions mean that chaplains will be prevented from entering the Olympic village


The Japanese gymnast Wataru Tanigawa trains at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, on Wednesday

The Japanese gymnast Wataru Tanigawa trains at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, Tokyo, on Wednesday

CHRISTIANS around the world are being encour­aged to pray before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, which takes place tonight in Tokyo, and throughout the Olym­pic and Paralympic Games.

Japan1Million, which describes itself as “a global prayer com­mun­ity”, is encouraging people to register to pray via the website japan1million.com. It is “seeking to pray one million hours of prayer for Japan during the 30 days of the Olympics and Paralympics”, a statement said. A “global prayer gathering” will commence online at 6.30 p. m. on Friday and finish 15 minutes before the opening cere­mony begins.

Tight Covid restrictions mean that chaplains will be prevented from entering the Olympic village on Tokyo Bay. Every athlete has been provided with a free phone, with an app of­fering access to an e­­­chaplaincy service.

Athletes and their support staff have also been asked not to attend church services while in Japan by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Tokyo, the Most Revd Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi. Tokyo has declared a fourth state of emergency as cases continue to rise.
Archbishop Kikuchi said that the archdiocese had made a commit­ment that “we will not be infected, nor will we allow others to be in­­fected.”

In an open letter, he wrote: “All those who will be coming to the Tokyo Metropolitan area during this period will be provided with information concerning the pre­cautionary measures imple­mented against Covid-19 infection in the parishes and will be re­­quested to refrain from visiting churches.

“The archdiocese had originally been considering preparations so that each parish may be able to ad­dress the spiritual needs of the many people who will come to Japan for this international event.

“However, we have decided to cancel all plans and will not take any special involvement in the Olym­pics and Paralympics.”

Instead, the archdiocese is streaming Sunday masses in Eng­lish, Spanish, and Vietnamese es­pecially for athletes. One-to-one online meetings with a priest will also be offered.

Christians in Sport is also organ­ising Sunday services online for athletes. Jonny Reid, a spokesman for Christians in Sport, said that the organisation had been sup­porting hundreds of elite athletes through­out lockdown, with online Bible studies and phone calls.

“Our services will be streamed privately for those in the village, and shared by word of mouth by athletes and coaches in Tokyo,” he said; but the athletes were facing “tough” conditions, with no sup­porters or family allowed.

No spectators will be able to watch the Games. There has been hostility in Japan to the Games, be­­cause of fears that visiting athletes will spread the virus.

The Paralympic Games open on 24 August. 

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