TOKYO: Thousands of fans were left disappointed on Thursday as an approaching typhoon forced Rugby World Cup organisers to cancel two games, spoiling their trip to Japan.
Supporters flew to Japan in droves to watch England play France and New Zealand against Italy on Saturday, only for the unprecedented cancellation prompted by Super Typhoon Hagibis.
More games are under threat as Hagibis, forecast to be the biggest storm to hit Japan this year, ploughs into the country on Saturday, bringing high wind, torrential rain and the potential for widespread destruction.
British couple Simon and Angela Learey, who live in Sydney, were among many visitors frustrated by the cancellations — the first in Rugby World Cup history.
They flew in this week to watch ‘Le Crunch’ between Six Nations rivals England and France on Saturday, with tickets that were a birthday present.
“Very disappointed, we came only especially for that match,” Angela said.
“We’re taking time off work to have those few days here. Holiday is precious so we were ready to take the five days to come here and now we think, hmmm,” she added.
“Maybe it’s nice to see Tokyo but we came mainly for the World Cup, so very disappointed.”
Many fans also face disruption to organised tours, which revolve around the games, while hundreds of domestic flights have already been cancelled.
More than 100 flights were grounded when Typhoon Faxai — much smaller than Hagibis — hit Japan before the World Cup, leaving two people dead and cutting power to half-a-million homes.
– ‘10,000 miles for a cancelled match’ –
Catherine, a French tour guide who has lived in Japan for about 20 years, questioned the wisdom of holding the World Cup in typhoon season. Tokyo will also host the Summer Olympics next July and August.
“Why are they holding the World Cup now, when everyone knows there are typhoons?” she said. “I don’t understand it.
“Why are the Olympics in the height of summer when everyone’s going to die of heat?”
Englishman Paul Moore, 61, who lives in typhoon-prone Hong Kong, said it was the right decision to cancel the two games on Saturday.
“I know how bad typhoons can be… I’m disappointed but it’s the right decision,” he said, adding: “It’s a super typhoon so it’s one of the big ones.”
Asked what he planned to do instead of going to the game, Moore said: “Find a bar! Because there are other games still on so we’ll find a bar somewhere.”
It was a common solution raised by fans, although many of Tokyo’s bars will be shut when the storm hits and it will be dangerous to venture outdoors.
Flavia Spena, an Italian who lives in New Zealand, was disappointed to miss out on a rare match between the two countries.
“We are very disappointed that it has been cancelled, but we understand that a typhoon is something very serious. But as a fan coming all the way, it’s a little bit sad,” she said.
For Chris, an English fan from Gloucester who was visiting with his brother and three friends, it was a long way to come for a match that isn’t taking place.
“(We’ve) made such a long journey, travelled 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometres) for a cancelled match,” he said, sipping a beer to ease the pain.