Emmanuel Macron arrives in Tokyo for the Olympics
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He insisted Tokyo was “right to maintain these Olympic Games” amid opposition to the event during the Covid pandemic. He was joined by US First Lady Jill Biden for her first solo overseas trip six months after her husband was elected president. One furious Frenchman said: “Our president goes from Paris to Tokyo while you are bound by the hardest health rules.”
A second critic tweeted: “After setting the country on fire, Macron leaves to hide in Tokyo, at the most expensive Olympic Games in history, which only a privileged few will attend.
“That’s all him.”
And yet a third slammed a video showing Mr Macron placing his arms on a fellow guest at an Olympic reception for dignitaries while the global health crisis rages on.
He held the shoulders of Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee boss, but stopped short of giving him a traditional French greeting of kisses.
Both men donned facemasks but nevertheless their actions appeared to bother some social media users.
One said: “He could stop touching people. I find it particularly annoying, especially when it comes to distancing.”
Mr Macron headed to Tokyo to offer his support to France’s 378 athletes competing in what is an Olympic event unlike any other.
After last year’s gathering was cancelled, Olympic bosses this year banned spectators from attending.
Mr Macron argued that despite the Covid crisis gripping the world, authorities were right to push ahead with the competitions.
Speaking before the opening ceremony, he said: “We support the Japanese organisers, but also, of course, our athletes.
“I know all their sacrifices, every year counts for an athlete.
“I assure them the support of the whole nation.”
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Asked about the goal for medals for the French delegation, President Macron estimated “that it is necessary to win around 40 medals”, while adding: “We especially need great moments of emotion and for these games to be an essential step towards Paris 2024.”
He went on to say France is looking forward to hosting the next Olympic Games in three years.
He added: “I am here to bring France’s support to the Olympic movement and to the Japanese organisers.
“We will take over in 2024, we are ready and we must accelerate.
“In 2024 it will be the role of Paris, Marseille, the French Polynesia… the whole of France to host the Olympics.”
Last week the French government unveiled the toughest Covid rules in any EU countries with the introduction of a vaccine passport for entry to cafes, restaurants and bars.
However, just a week after the announcement, the controversial scheme is already coming under significant strain.
There have been mass street protests and industry bosses have spoken out against the Covid green pass, due to come into effect next week.
French media reported that more than 100,000 people, many waving anti-vaccination placards, took part in protests.
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