The Tokyo Olympics, postponed last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, kicked off on Friday with its gala opening ceremony. As Japan continues to report record Covid-19 cases, spectators have been banned at Tokyo venues, and athletes paraded into a near-empty stadium.
The ceremony opened with a video revisiting 2013, when Tokyo was first awarded the Olympic Games of 2020. In the years since, things have changed a great deal. The pandemic hit the world last year and everyone, including the athletes, was forced to stay at home. This story – and this 8-year journey – is being told from the athletes’ point of view.
Then came the dignitaries: the Emperor of Japan, accompanied by IOC President Thomas Bach, the Olympic fencing champion from Montreal 1976. First Lady Jill Biden and President Macron are among the VIPs in the stadium.
A moment of silence followed remembering all those we have lost followed. Not only this who succumbed to Covid-19, but also the Olympians who have perished at the Olympic Games, namely the members of the Israeli team who were killed at Munich in 1972 by PLO terrorists.
Team Greece leads athletes’ parade in Tokyo Olympics
Ordinarily, the opening ceremony would be packed with athletes waiting to parade into the stadium. Instead, for Covid reasons, there were just a handful.
Greek athletes led the parade simply because Greece is the place the Olympic Games in ancient times, and the Modern Olympics, were born. Anna Korakaki and Eleftherios Petrounias – who compete in shooting and artistic gymnastics respectively – were the flag bearers.
The order of the athletes’ parade in the opening ceremony is otherwise alphabetical, based on the language of the host country. This year, Greece led and Japan paraded last. The rest of the athletes were in the alphabetical order of the Japanese alphabet. There are 207 teams in total.
For the second time in its history, the Olympic Games welcomed the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, which paraded immediately after Greece. Leading the delegation into the stadium were the flagbearers, swimmer Yusra Mardini and marathon runner Tachlowini Gabriyesos.
The Greek Olympic team on its way to the stadium for the opening ceremony:
The Olympic torch relay has sadly been downgraded for the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, with Covid-19 turning the flame’s traditionally public journey from Olympia, Greece, into a largely private affair.
While past Olympic Games have seen the torch carried undersea by a diver or even flown through the air by a ski jumper, this year’s relay was instead composed of isolated ceremonies taking place around Japan ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony.