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TV viewership for the ceremony averaged 56.4 percent in Japan’s Kanto region, which includes the capital of Tokyo and its surrounding areas — the highest ratings for the event since the previous Tokyo Olympics were held in 1964.
The estimated Japanese viewership data was released Monday by local TV ratings firm Video Research Ltd.
Japan’s highest ratings for an Olympic ceremony held outside the country was 47.9 percent for the Los Angeles Games in 1984, Video Research said.
The robust Japanese TV viewership for the Summer Games comes after organizers banned all spectators from attending Olympic events in Tokyo to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — and after Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga urged the public to watch the Olympics safely at home. The Japanese capital is currently under its fourth state of emergency amid a steadily rising wave of infections from the delta variant. On Sunday, Tokyo reported 1,763 new COVID-19 cases, the most ever for a Sunday in the city. During the lead-up to the Games, polling consistently showed that a majority of the Japanese public preferred for the event to be canceled and wasn’t confident it could be staged safely.
TV viewership in Tokyo reached a high point of 61 percent at three moments during the ceremony, according to Video Research: During the traditional carpentry display, which featuring popular actress Miki Maya; shortly after the parade of nations began; and, curiously, during a spirited but somewhat out-of-place performance by Japanese tap dancer Kazunori Kumagai. In Japan’s Kansai region, which includes the population centers of Osaka and Kyoto, ratings for the opening ceremony reached a peak of 54.6 percent at the start of the athletes’ parade.
The large Japanese viewership contrasts sharply with the weak ratings for the Olympics thus far in the U.S. Just 16.7 million viewers, the smallest U.S. television audience for the event in the past 33 years, tuned in for the opening ceremony, according to preliminary data from NBCUniversal. The figures included both TV and online streaming audiences.
The U.S. drop from previous Olympic opening ceremonies was steep: The opener for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang attracted 28.3 million American viewers, the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro drew 26.5 million, and the London 2012 Games had a record opening ceremony audience of 40.7 million in the U.S.
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