Tokyo Olympics have finally opened on Friday with cascading fireworks and made-for-TV choreography that unfolded in a near-empty stadium, a colourful but strangely subdued ceremony that set a striking tone to match a unique Pandemic Games.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the formal start of Tokyo 2020.
As their opening played out the Olympics convened amid simmering anger and disbelief in much of the host country, but with hopes from organizers that the excitement of the sports to follow would offset the widespread opposition.
Moment of hope
“Today is a moment of hope,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said in his welcome speech before the emperor formally declared the Games of the 32nd Olympiad open.
“Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment because finally, we are all here together,” he
said, naming solidarity “the light at the end of the dark tunnel of this pandemic”.
Bach also praised the Japanese people, saying in Japanese, “Thank you to all the Japanese people” for making the Games possible.
The organisers also sent the traditional message of peace as global pop stars sang the John Lennon and Yoko Ono hit “Imagine” while drones formed the shape of the Olympic emblem in the sky above the stadium and transformed into the shape of the globe.
“With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties,” said the President of the organising committee, Seiko Hashimoto.
A reduced parade of about 5,700 athletes, far lower than the usual numbers, filed into the stadium.
Most countries were represented by both male and female flagbearers in an Olympic first, but not everybody took pandemic measures.
The number of Olympic-related infections since July 1 stood at 106, while the Japanese capital logged 1,359 new infections.