Tokyo Olympics commences with a remote yet spectacular ceremony amid covid fears

News Network
July 23, 2021

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The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics began on Friday in a nearly empty stadium after a year-long pandemic postponement and a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.

A video showing athletes training at home during the coronavirus pandemic started the show, with pink fireworks bursting into the air after a countdown.

The ceremony in the 68,000-capacity stadium is taking place before just a few hundred officials and dignitaries, including Japan's Emperor Naruhito, French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden.

The emperor will officially declare the Games open.

The Olympics have faced opposition in Japan over fears the global gathering of 11,000 athletes could trigger a super-spreader event.

Organisers have put strict virus measures in place, banning overseas fans for the first time ever, and keeping domestic spectators out of all but a handful of venues.

Athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict Covid-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks.

Polls have consistently found a majority of Japanese are against the Games, with opinion ranging from weary indifference to outright hostility.

But there was plenty of enthusiasm outside the Olympic Stadium in the hours before the ceremony, as hundreds of people gathered hoping to soak up the atmosphere and watch the fireworks expected during the extravaganza.

Mako Fukuhara arrived six hours before the ceremony to grab a spot.

"Until now it didn't feel like the Olympics, but now we are by the stadium, it feels like the Olympics," she told AFP as people snapped selfies nearby.

'Determined'

Traditionally a highlight of any Summer Games, featuring the parade of nations and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, Tokyo's opening ceremony has been drastically pared back.

Fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and officials are present at the stadium, and in a sign of how divisive the Games remain, several top sponsors including Toyota and Panasonic are not attending.

A few hundred protestors demonstrated against the Games outside the stadium as the ceremony began.

Tokyo is battling a surge in virus cases, and is under emergency measures that means restaurants must shut by 8:00 pm and cannot sell alcohol.

Dogged by controversy

But Olympic officials have put a brave face on the unusual circumstances, with IOC chief Thomas Bach insisting cancellation was never on the table.

"Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds," he said this week. "We had doubts every day. There were sleepless nights.

"We can finally see at the end of the dark tunnel. Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes... we did it for the athletes."

There are also hefty financial incentives in play. Insiders estimate the IOC would have been on the hook for around $1.5 billion in lost broadcasting revenues if the Games had been cancelled.

The pandemic has not been the only hiccup in preparations though, with scandals ranging from corruption during the bidding process to plagiarism allegations over the design of the Tokyo 2020 logo.

The controversies kept coming right up to the eve of the Games, with the opening ceremony's director sacked on Thursday for making a joke referencing the Holocaust in a video from 1998.

Back in the sporting arenas, a new generation of Olympic stars are looking to shine after a decade dominated by the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

US swimmer Caeleb Dressel could target seven gold medals, and in track and field, 400 metre hurdlers Karsten Warholm of Norway and the USA's Sydney McLaughlin are among those hoping to emerge as household names.

Gymnastics meanwhile will see Simone Biles attempt to crown her dazzling career by equalling Larisa Latynina's record of nine Olympic gold medals.

New Olympic sports will also be on display in Tokyo, with surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate all making their debut.

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News Network
September 13,2021

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept 13: An Air India Express flight which took off from Kerala for Sharjah, in the UAE, on Monday morning with 170 passengers was forced to turn back shortly after taking off due to a technical glitch.

The plane, which also had a crew of six, landed safely at Thiruvananthapuram airport and another flight was arranged for the passengers, including five infants, to travel to Sharjah, an Air India Express (AIE) spokesperson said.

According to an official of the airport, the incident occurred at around 7 am.

The AIE spokesperson said the pilots noticed the technical glitch around half an hour after take-off and immediately decided to turn back to Thiruvananthapuram.

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News Network
September 6,2021

Bengaluru, Sep 6: It was a sweet and sour day for the BJP on results day of the municipal corporation polls held in three cities of Karnataka.

While the party registered a historic win in Belagavi municipal corporation election, the party failed to get a clear majority in Hubballi-Dharwad and Kalaburagi municipal corporations.

The BJP emerged as the single-largest party in Hubballi-Dharwad corporation by winning 39 seats out of 82 seats and came a close second to the Congress in Kalaburagi civic body by winning 23 seats out of 55 seats.

However, the BJP is satisfied with its performance in Kalaburagi as the party had just won seven seats in the last elections.

This election, it put up a ground breaking performance by tentatively winning 23 seats. The Congress won 26 seats and the remaining seats were won by others.

However, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai exuded confidence of sewing up majorities in Hubballi-Dharwad and Kalaburagi city corporations, with the support of other candidates, including JDS.

"The municipal corporation elections were almost a sample test for me after one month of my taking over as the chief minister. Out of the three municipal corporations, we have got a majority in two of the municipal corporations," he told reporters here.

"In the third one also (Kalaburagi), we are going to make the majority. We are in a very close race, but we are going to make the majority there also. So, all three corporations will have BJP mayors," he added.

Bommai also said it is a clean sweep for the party and a drubbing for the Congress.

These polls were a litmus test for Bommai, more so in Hubballi-Dharwad, which is his hometown. It also is the hometown of Union Minister Pralhad Joshi and senior BJP leader Jagadish Shettar.

Despite the presence of these leaders, the party failing to get a clear majority is a setback for Bommai as some voices within the party would target him, questioning his electoral leadership.

For BJP, Hubballi-Dharwad has been its stronghold for more than two decades and it was looking to complete a hat-trick this election, but could not as factionalism played spoilt sport.

Ahead of the election, the BJP had expelled 16 leaders for anti-party activities. The rebels had raised voice against the party for not giving them tickets.

Out of these rebel candidates, two of them won their respective wards. The party fell three short of the required majority of 42 out of the toral 82 seats.

The Congress managed to get the second largest share of 33 seats while the remaining went into the kitty of Independents, two of them were revel BJP aspirants.

To get a clear majority, the BJP will either have to get support from three Independents including two rebel BJP aspirants who won the election.

In Kalaburagi, JDS has emerged kingmaker as it won four seats, which has almost decided to lend support to the BJP, which garnered 23 seats.

Also, one rebel BJP candidate is expected to support the saffron party, which would take the total to 28 seats, which is a majority mark for any party to win an election.

BJP registers historic win in Belagavi

However, BJP registered a historic win after the party got a clear majority in the Belagavi city corporation election.

BJP got a clear majority in Belagavi city corporation elections, which has attracted the attention of the entire Maharashtra including Karnataka.

According to the results so far, the BJP won 39 wards, while Congress won ten out of the total 58 wards. Other parties managed to bag 13 seats, out of which, MES won just two seats.

The BJP had campaigned vigorously and aggressively in this election, which bore fruits for the party.

On the resounding win in Belagavi corporation polls, senior BJP leader and minister KS Eshwarappa said he was sure of the party winning in Belagavi because people there are staunch nationalist supporters.

Also, Belagavi has been BJP's stronghold in general and assembly elections, he said.

Asked if the results were in favour of BJP in two corporation polls, Eshwarappa said the victories suggest that the people of the two cities have acknowledged the good work carried out by Bommai in ministerial capacities.

However, BJP's politics does not revolve around individual politics, but around party, sangh parivar and leadership, he stated. "Because of these three factors, the party wins most of the elections. People have tremendous faith in the party, leadership and sanghatane," he added.

On Kalaburagi poll results, Eshwarappa said though people are benefiting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Muslims have not been voting for the party.

"Looking at what is happening in Afghanistan which is under Taliban's control, Muslim voters one day pin faith in PM Modi's Sab Ka Saath Sabka Vikas, and they will vote for BJP," he said.

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News Network
September 2,2021

Allahabad, Sept 2: The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday said Parliament should make a law declaring cow a national animal and to punish those who harm it.

Observing that the animal is an important part of the Indian culture, Bench of Justice Shekhar Kumar Yadav said a fundamental right is not only the prerogative of beef eaters but also of those who worship cows and are financially dependent on it.

The government should bring a Bill in Parliament and declare cow as the national animal and make strict laws against those who talk about harming the animal, the court said.

"The right to life is above the right to kill and the right to eat beef can never be considered a fundamental right," the court further said denying bail to Javed of Sambhal district, who allegedly stole a cow before killing and beheaded the animal.

"This is not the first offence of the applicant. Even before this offence, he had committed cow slaughter, which had disturbed the harmony in society," the court said, adding that if released on bail, the accused will again commit the same offence.

The HC further noted that it is not only Hindus who have understood the importance of cows, Muslim rulers also considered it as an important part of India's culture during their reign.

For example, Babur, Humayun and Akbar prohibited the sacrifice of cows in their religious festivals, the court said.

The ruler of Mysore, Hyder Ali, made cow slaughter a punishable offence, the HC added.

The court said cow should be declared a national animal as when a country's culture and faith gets hurt, the country becomes weak.

The court said the government should also bring laws against those who are running cow shelters but their aim is only to earn money in the name of the animal’s protection. 

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