Earlier on Friday, a request from Tokyo 2020 organizers to postpone the opening game of the Osaka Olympics from Saturday to Sunday was granted ahead of the opening ceremony, fueling speculation that the four-time Grand Slam champion, who is making his Olympic home ground debut, could light the cauldron.
The daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, Osaka was born in Japan but moved to the United States at the age of three.
Earlier this month, citing her sanity, Osaka withdrew from the French Open, later revealing that she had “suffered from long periods of depression” since winning her first Grand Slam title in 2018. She later also retired from Wimbledon.
The ceremony ended around midnight in Japan as a spectacular fireworks display lit up the Tokyo night sky.
While the opening ceremonies of the Olympics are usually held in front of crowded bleachers, spectators have been kept away in Tokyo. Instead, many lined the fences around the city’s national stadium throughout the day, while others gathered outside the venue to protest.
According to Tokyo 2020 organizers, 950 people attended the opening ceremony – just a handful at a venue with a capacity of 68,000 – as the 206 competing delegations were officially welcomed to the Games. US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the event.
Athletes expected to arrive at the Olympic Village five days before their competition and leave a maximum of two days after, fewer participated in the parade of nations compared to previous Olympic Games.
Team USA, for example, had over 200 athletes walking through the stadium among a team of over 600 athletes, while 63 of Australia’s 472 athletes participated.
“I think it’s unfortunate,” US triple jumper Will Claye told reporters of some athletes who were unable to attend the opening ceremony due to restrictions.
“My first Olympics in 2012 I walked and got to meet and take pictures with some of my sports idols, some of the athletes I admire like Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James) and Power actually spending time with these people as we get ready to do the opening ceremonies, ”said Claye, referring to the NBA greats.
“And these are the memories that last a lifetime… For someone this may be their first Olympics, this is a once in a lifetime thing. You never know if you will be able to come back to this. Stadium.
Traditional Tongan dress
If it was an opening ceremony like no other, one thing has remained unchanged from the past Olympics: the shirtless Tongan Pita Taufatofua has made a comeback.
Taufatofua first caught the attention of Olympic spectators in Rio five years ago when he appeared in a traditional Tongan dress and covered in oil. He then rehearsed the act at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics two years later.
However, Taufatofua had some competition this time around, with Vanuatu flagship rower Riilio Rii also coming out shirtless and oiled up.
Many athletes remained socially distant as they walked through the stadium, but others – like Argentina and Portugal – were exuberant, cheering and dancing.
The procession began with Greece, the first nation to host the modern Olympics, whose athletes were followed by those of the 29-person refugee Olympic team, which made its debut at the Rio 2016 Olympics. concluded with the United States and France – the two countries hosting the next two editions of the Games – and finally Japan.
Legendary basketball player Sue Bird and baseball star Eddy Alvares carried the United States flag, which was acclaimed from the stands by First Lady Jill Biden.
The ceremony took place in the presence of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and included performances that paid tribute to the culture and history of the country. A model of Mount Fuji, the iconic peak that towers over Tokyo, was placed in the stadium and presided over the dancers and singers who took to the stage at the start of the event.
It has also been recognized how the coronavirus pandemic has affected athletes over the past 18 months. Japanese boxer and nurse Arisa Tsubata – whose Olympic dreams were dashed when a qualifying event was called off – was seen running alone on a treadmill in the dark at the start of the opening ceremony.
“Today is a moment of hope,” said President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach.
“Yes, it’s very different from what we all imagined. But let’s cherish this moment because at last we are all here together: the athletes of 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic team, living under one roof. together in the Olympic Village.
“It is the unifying power of sport. It is the message of solidarity, the message of peace and the message of resilience. It gives us all hope for our next trip together.”
This is the second time Tokyo has hosted the Games after doing so in 1964, but preparations for the opening ceremony in 2021 have been mired in controversy
Director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired Thursday over past comments that “ridiculed the painful facts of history,” according to Tokyo 2020 organizers. Local media said he made anti-Semitic comments in a comedy of 1998 on the Holocaust. Kobayashi then apologized for his comments.
This was after musician Keigo Oyamada, composer of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, announced his intention to step down this week after old bullying behavior interviews resurfaced.
Several sports have already started in Tokyo before the opening ceremony: archery, baseball, softball, horseback riding, football, rowing and shooting.
But Friday’s event – a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for what should be one-time Games – marks the official start of the Tokyo Olympics, albeit a year later than originally planned.
From Saturday, the first medals of the Games will be distributed; after months of challenges and uncertainties, the Olympic organizers will finally be able to let sport do the talking.
You Can Read Also