Muslim Olympians celebrate Eid far from home in Tokyo

FILE PHOTO: Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Soccer Football - Men - Group D - Ivory Coast v Saudi Arabia - International Stadium Yokohama, Yokohama, Japan - July 22, 2021. Saudi Arabia players line up for the national anthems before the match REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Muslim athletes in Tokyo for the Olympics marked a pared-down Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, thousands of miles from their loved ones with shared prayers and cheery online messages.

One of the most important holidays on the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha is typically celebrated with families coming together in fine clothes to partake of large feasts, slaughtering livestock for the occasion and giving presents to children.

The Tokyo Olympics are being held under tight coronavirus restrictions with athletes, officials and journalists from around the globe all but cut off from the rest of the city and subject to mask-wearing and social distancing.

After years of training to make it this far, some Muslim athletes and officials from Muslim countries, gathered together for a shared prayer in masks.

"The delegations of Islamic countries conduct the prayer for the blessed Eid al-Adha holiday in the athletes' village," Jordan's Olympic Committee posted on Twitter alongside pictures of athletes and officials praying amid sports shoes and clothes.

Some officials wearing Saudi-branded tracksuits appeared to be praying on a stone floor without the usual prayer mats. Their masks hiding smiles, Moroccan and Jordanian representatives shared sweets from small tins for the occasion.

Much of the celebrations were confined to online messages.

All fourteen players of the Turkish women's volleyball team, dubbed the "Sultans of the Net" back home, published a video message on Instagram and Twitter.

"Happy Eid to everyone from Tokyo," the women chanted.

Turkey's volleyball team is one of the country's medal hopes, after bagging the bronze medal last month at the Volleyball Women's Nations League tournament.

As for the Olympic refugee team, which includes athletes from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Iran, the International Olympic Committee's director of Olympic solidarity, James Macleod, said at a virtual news conference on Friday:

"The Muslim athletes celebrated Eid and we were happy that they were able to do that. Obviously, with the measures in place, we can't have a party, so they were doing it in personal way."

(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay and Yuka Obayashi; Editing by Karishma Singh)

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