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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Thailand, Philippines and India connect to spectator-less Olympics

Social media and medal haul keep Asian audience engaged

Philippine weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz celebrates after a lift at the Tokyo Olympics. She won the country's first-ever Olympic gold medal.   © Reuters

TOKYO -- The Tokyo Olympic Games are nearly halfway to the Aug. 8 closing ceremony, defying the unprecedented one-year postponement and a ban on virtually all spectators due to the pandemic as well as the scorching heat and rising coronavirus cases in the host city.

The Games seemed destined to be unpopular, with many Japanese opposing the event given deep concerns over the potential spread of COVID-19. But once the competitions began, the Tokyo Olympics drew substantial Asian audiences as the region's athletes achieved great performances. This partly offset a viewership decline in the U.S., where an estimated 17 million people watched the opening ceremony -- down 36% from the kickoff to the Rio de Janeiro Games five years ago, The Associated Press reports.

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