Tokyo Olympics 2020 Opening Ceremony Highlights: Naomi Osaka is the final bearer of the Olympic torch and lights up the Olympic cauldron to officially open the Games. The Olympic torch is lit. The Tokyo Games were declared open by IOC president Thomas Bach and the Emperor of Japan.
With Japan the final team to walk in, the athletes parade comes to an end. The athletes parade is a riot of colours. Indian contingent perform the athletes parade with Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh as the flagbearers. The athletes parade began with Greece. The opening ceremony begins with the stadium being lit and a couple of colourful performances.
The most troubled Olympics in modern history finally open in Tokyo on Friday, struggling to shake off lingering virus fears after a one-year postponement and a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.
There is a montage of Olympic Torch Relay. It is carried in by Tadahiro Nomura, Saori Yoshida. It is then passed to three Japanese baseball players. Then it is passed on to a doctor and a nurse. Then the torch is passed on to Paralympic athlete Wakako Tsuchida. Students from Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures now have their turn. Those three areas were hardest-hit by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
The torch finally reaches tennis sensation Naomi Osaka who goes in front of a white structure, which opens to unveil stairs going to the Olympic cauldron. She goes up the stairs and the flame is lit and the fireworks go off.
Tokyo Olympic Games are Open!
Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Japanese badminton star Kento Momota is one of the athletes bringing the Olympic flag into the stadium.
The Olympic flag is passed to health workers, who have worked tirelessly to find the Covid-19 pandemic.
The flag is then passed to the army men.
Everyone is then asked to stand for the Olympic anthem.
Here is what IOC president Thomas Bach said at the opening ceremony:
"Welcome to Tokyo 2020. Today is a moment of hope, let us cherish this moment, finally we are all here. Athletes from 205 are living under the same roof in the Olympic Village. This is the power of sports, this is our hope. We could all be here because of you, our precious Japanese hosts, we pay our respects to you. The organising committee and Japanese committee on all levels, you have done an extraordinary job.
"There were unprecedented challenges. First reconstructing after earthquake and then the pandemic, which is why is respect is even more huge. Our gratitude to doctors and volunteers for doing all they did. For the volunteers, you are the best ambassadors for Japan.
"For my athletes, you had to face unprecedented challenges on your journey to the Olympics. There was great uncertainty, you didn't know when you could train, see your coach, or when you will have your teammates, you didn't know if the competition will be held at all. You never gave up and today, you are making your Olympic dream come true. You are true Olympic athletes! You inspire us to fight like you and for you to make this moment possible. My sincere thanks to federation and all national olympic committees for standing with us. This made us a community. Dear athletes, this Olympic community is with you, billion will be glued to their screens, sending you energy and cheering you on. We learnt we could face challenges only if we stand together. We need more solitary among and within societies. Solidarity means helping, sharing, caring, this is what we do in our Olympic community. We made the Olympic Games happen. This solidarity fuels our mission to make the world a better place through sports. Only because of it we could be here tonight. Solidarity also reflects our 300-year-old committment to peace. With this we welcome the IOC refugee Olympic team.
"Dear refugee athletes, with your talent and human spirit, you are demonstrating what enrichment refugees are. You ran from home because of hunger or just being different. We welcome you with open arms, welcome to our Olympic community. Here, we are all equal and respect the same rules. This experience makes all of us humble because we feel we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of an event that unites the world. We are always stronger together. This is why we are grateful to your athletes for showing all of that in your new Olympic oath. We can only go faster, higher and stronger in solidarity. This feeling of togetherness is the light at the end of the tunnel. The pandemic forced us to keep distance and stay away even from our loved ones. The separation makes the tunnel so dark but today, wherever you may be, we are united in sharing this moment together. The Olympic flame makes this light shine brighter for all of us. I invite the Emperor of Japan to declare the Games open."
Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
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Megan Rapinoe and Abby Dahlkemper having fun inside while the opening ceremony is going on in the stadium.
Eight years after Japanese newscasters shed tears as Tokyo celebrated winning the right to stage the Games, Friday’s opening ceremony will take place before empty stands and with the city in a state of emergency.
Fears that the global gathering of 11,000 athletes could trigger a super-spreader event have prompted organisers to clamp the Games in a biosecure straitjacket.
Overseas fans are banned for the first time ever, and domestic spectators will be kept out of all but a handful of venues.
Athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict Covid-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks.
Polls have consistently found a majority of Japanese are against the games, with opinion ranging from weary indifference to outright hostility.
But in the hours before the opening ceremony, there were glimmers of excitement building, with thousands turning out in Tokyo to watch an aerial display by the Japanese air force’s Blue Impulse team.
“Before the Olympics began I expected the atmosphere to be a little sad,” said Maki Hasumoto, 25, as she waited for the display.
“But now it’s very atmospheric and now I’m looking forward to it.”
Friday is a national holiday in Japan and families set up picnic blankets in Tokyo parks to watch the jets draw the Olympic rings in coloured smoke.
“It’s impressive here. It really feels like the Olympics is going to start,” added 38-year-old Megumi Taguchi.
Nearby, locals patiently lined up in the heat to take photos in front of the Olympic rings mounted next to the stadium that will host this evening’s opening extravaganza.
Traditionally a highlight of any Summer Games, featuring the parade of nations and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, Tokyo’s opening ceremony will be drastically pared back.
Fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and officials will be present at the 68,000-seat stadium when events get under way at 8:00 pm local time (1100 GMT).
Most world leaders have opted to stay away, though US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron — whose country will host the 2024 Paris Olympics — will be in the stands along with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.
But in a sign of how divisive the Games remain, several top sponsors including Toyota and Panasonic will not be sending executives.
A few hundred protestors demonstrated against the Games on Friday morning near the Tokyo government building where Governor Yuriko Koike welcomed the Olympic flame.
“Even though the pandemic continues, we will hold a safe and secure Games,” Koike said. “We are determine to see it through. Today is the first step towards that.”
Tokyo is battling a surge in virus cases, and is under emergency measures that means bars and restaurants must shut by 8:00 pm and cannot sell alcohol.
Dogged by controversy
But Olympic officials have put a brave face on the unusual circumstances, with IOC chief Bach insisting cancellation was never on the table.
“Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds,” he said this week. “We had doubts every day. There were sleepless nights.
“We can finally see at the end of the dark tunnel. Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes… we did it for the athletes.”
There are also hefty financial incentives in play. Insiders estimate the IOC would have been on the hook for around $1.5 billion in lost broadcasting revenues if the Games had been cancelled.
The pandemic has not been the only hiccup in preparations though, with scandals ranging from corruption during the bidding process to plagiarism allegations over the design of the Tokyo 2020 logo.
The controversies kept coming right up to the eve of the Games, with the opening ceremony’s director sacked on Thursday for making a joke referencing the Holocaust in a video from 1998.
Back in the sporting arenas, a new generation of Olympic stars are looking to shine after a decade dominated by the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.
US swimmer Caeleb Dressel could target seven gold medals, and in track and field, 400 metre hurdlers Karsten Warholm of Norway and the USA’s Sydney McLaughlin are among those hoping to emerge as household names.
Gymnastics meanwhile will see Simone Biles attempt to crown her dazzling career by equalling Larisa Latynina’s record of nine Olympic gold medals.
New Olympic sports will also be on display in Tokyo, with surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate all making their debut.