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‘Strange atmosphere’: Disappointed athletes brace for crowd-free Tokyo Games

With just two weeks to go before the opening of the biggest sports tournament since the pandemic began, organisers were forced Thursday night to yield to a surging domestic virus caseload and bar spectators from the majority of Olympic events.

The decision means the Games will be the first to take place largely behind closed doors — a blow to athletes who will now compete in front of largely empty stadiums.

For some the news proved a final straw, with Australia’s Kyrgios, a crowd pleasing showman who had already cast doubt on his willingness to participate, saying he would withdraw.

“The thought of playing in front of empty stadiums just doesn’t sit right with me. It never has,” he said on social media. “I wouldn’t want to take the opportunity away from a healthy Aussie athlete ready to represent the country.”

Mayer said he would miss the roar of crowds, saying organisers were “taking away a joyful part of sport.”
Others admitted that a crowd-free stadium was far from what they had imagined when first dreaming of Olympic glory.

“When we think of the Games, we think of the audience, the atmosphere, the supporters. It was what I wanted when I was little. It will certainly be a strange atmosphere,” said French cyclist Guillaume Martin, who is set to compete in the men’s individual road race in Tokyo.

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