TOKYO (NEXSTAR) — Outside of the Olympic bubble, COVID-19 numbers continue to rise at record levels. Protests against the games are taking place in the city of Tokyo.

“I think it’s a miracle that we’re all here,” former International Olympic Committee executive director Michael Payne said.

Tokyo is hosting an Olympics during a worldwide pandemic, and the COVID-19 numbers have exploded since the games began. The city broke another record Saturday with over 4,000 new cases.

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From an outsiders viewpoint, the empty stadiums make sense, but Payne is disappointed.

“You initially turned on the TV, what’s the deal. Because you have spectators at the local baseball, you have spectators at the local sumo,” Payne said. “So — hang out. It’s banned for the Olympics, but not banned for other events. Somebody is playing games.”

Payne thinks the decision is politically motivated.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time the Olympics were used in that fashion. In the midst of the Cold War, the U.S. boycotted the Moscow games in 1980, and four years later Russia returned the favor.

Payne said he thinks the Tokyo games were “clearly caught in the crossfire of a major political battle going on between the governor of Tokyo and the prime minister.”

Those with the biggest loss are the Japanese, who can’t see their own games.