Viewers spot 'treadmill nurse' 'taking knee' at Olympics opener but cameras cut away

23 July 2021, 13:21 | Updated: 23 July 2021, 13:42

Performer appears to take the knee during the Olympic opening ceremony

By Asher McShane

Cameras appeared to cut away when one of the key performers knelt down at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Nurse Arisa Tsubata, 27, ran on a treadmill in front of a virtually empty Olympic stadium as dancers fanned out around her at the start of the ceremony.

She was the first person viewers saw in the Olympic Stadium, running alone on the treadmill before other performers joined her.

But viewers noticed the cameras appear to cut away and jump awkwardly back to other dancers when she took to one knee during the ceremony, which was being watched by millions worldwide.

She ran on the treadmill before stepping off it briefly and kneeling down, before getting back on it again. Cameras cut away to show other performers.

READ MORE: Tokyo Olympics: Social media teams 'banned from showing athletes taking the knee'

It was unclear if her kneeling was part of the performance but her gesture appeared to echo the anti-racism stance that has been widely adopted by sportsmen and women around the world.

Arisa is a Japanese boxer who worked as a nurse during the pandemic, but lost her chance to compete at the Tokyo Olympics because of the virus. Her hopes of qualifying ended when an event was canceled because of the pandemic and slots were awarded by world rankings instead.

One viewer wrote: "I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me..." after seeing the camera cut away as she knelt down on her right knee.

Another person watching it live said: "Maybe she was warming up? That bit seemed to be about her losing hope in sport and then getting back on it."

It comes after it emerged Tokyo Olympics social media teams were banned from sharing posts of athletes taking the knee throughout the games.

Team GB's women's football team took the knee at their first match of the games against Chile on Wednesday.

Players from the United States, Sweden and New Zealand have since joined in with the gesture against racism.

For the Tokyo Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) relaxed its rules surrounding "making demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas", allowing the teams to make the move.

However, no images appeared on the official Tokyo 2020 live blog or its social media - including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

They did not appear on the IOC's platforms either.