TOKYO: After months of opposition, some in Japan are warming to the pandemic-hit Olympics, with fans defying authorities to cheer athletes on public roads and rushing to snap up Games merchandise. It hasn’t hurt that Japan’s athletes have enjoyed a gold rush in the first four days of the Games, triumphing in sports ranging from judo to skateboarding. Fans are barred from almost all events over virus fears, and have been asked to stay away from competitions on public roads. But they’ve been showing up anyway, determined for a glimpse of Olympic action. “If you see these athletes running in front of you, you can’t help but cheer for them,” said 42-year-old Hirochika Takeda, who popped out of his apartment to see the women’s triathlon passing by in the rain. “I had questions about holding the Olympics right up until the opening ceremony,” the IT professional said. “But once the sport began, I started to feel that maybe this is a good thing.” The Games opened on Friday, with tens of thousands of athletes, officials and media arriving in Japan from around the world. Because of the virus, the Olympics are taking place under a state of emergency in Tokyo that means fans are barred from venues and there is high anxiety about rising infections. But when the opening ceremony rolled around on Friday, thousands of people crowded around the Olympic Stadium to soak in the atmosphere and see the fireworks from outside, far outnumbering a group of anti-Games protesters. And those at home were equally intrigued, with viewing figures showing over 50 percent of households in Tokyo watched the ceremony live on TV. There has also been a surge in demand for Tokyo 2020 trinkets, according to shopowners and organisers. Stores set up specifically to sell Tokyo Olympic items that had shut down for lack of customers are now reopening. It might be no coincidence that the change of heart has coincided with a winning streak for home athletes.