By Shehan Daniel reporting from Tokyo, Japan
Gymnast Milka Gehani and judoka Chamara Dharmawardene will lead Sri Lanka’s contingent at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, with the games, already marked by public apathy, hit by fresh controversy on Thursday. With athletes only allowed into the athletes’ village five days before their respective events, only four others in Sri Lanka’s Olympic team are likely to take part in the opening ceremony – shooter Tehani Egodawela, swimmers Matthew Abeysinghe and Aniqah Gaffoor, and three-time Olympian Niluka Karunaratne. The participation of Egodawela, Gaffoor and Karunaratne at the opening ceremony however is contingent to them being allowed to return early to athletes’ village as all three take part in their events on Saturday. The games will begin in the backdrop of Tokyo battles its worst numbers of Covid-19 cases since January, with the number of positive tests among those accredited for the Olympics rising to 87 as of last morning. Fears over the event turning into a super-spreader has quelled public enthusiasm, with a poll showing that as many as 80 per cent of Japanese opposing the Olympics taking place this year. There was further embarrassment on Thursday with director of the opening ceremony Kentaro Kobayashi fired on the eve of the games after a video of him making jokes about holocaust in 1998 resurfaced. In preliminary round events that took place yesterday, the Unites States edged Canada, hosts Japan beat Mexico and Australia in the Softball opening round matches.Elsehwere, Egypt held Spain, whose team includes several players who participated in the recent European Championship, to a 0-0 draw in a Group C match in the football competition. Mexico thrashed France 4-1, New Zealand beat South Korea 1-0 and Ivory Coast beat Saudi Arabia 2-1.