Tokyo Olympics open sans customary razzle dazzle

Tokyo Olympics open sans customary razzle dazzle
(L) Athletes are seen with fireworks and (R) flag bearers Boxer Mary Kom and Hockey player Manpreet Singh with other Indian athletes during the opening ceremony at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo Friday. (AP)
TOKYO, JUL 23 | Publish Date: 7/23/2021 1:14:43 PM IST

The Olympics like no other opened here on Friday sans the customary razzmatazz, the toned-down ceremony showcasing Japan’s grandeur, rich culture and heritage while reflecting the sombre mood of a world ravaged by an unrelenting pandemic.

Japanese emperor Naruhito declared the Games open, a month after voicing concerns over the possible spread of coronavirus during the Olympics, becoming the third member from his family to do the honours.

It was ironical that the locals milling around the majestic National Stadium were not allowed entry due to the ban on crowds, even as visitors, including athletes and dignitaries, from across the world participated in the opening ceremony of the Games projected to cost a whopping USD 28 billion.

Fewer athletes across contingents took part, some to stay focussed on their events on Saturday, a lot others out of the fear of catching the infection that has already found its way into the Games village.

Around 950 VIPs and world leaders were in attendance inside the arena that has a capacity of 68,000. Despite the ban on crowd, the stadium was occupied by over 10,000 individuals performing different roles.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, without whose steely resolve and stubbornness the Tokyo Games wouldn’t have seen the light of the day, acknowledged that it will be different from the ones in the past.

“Today, the Olympic athletes are sending a resounding message of hope to our fragile world. The Opening Ceremony will highlight this Olympic message of resilience, solidarity and unity of all humankind in overcoming the pandemic,” Bach said in his address. “The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are a light at the end of this dark tunnel,” he said. Even as the opening ceremony took place, protestors gathered outside the stadium and made their voices heard after blocking one of the city’s busiest roads, forcing the police to act.

Although there were no spectators inside the Olympic Stadium, there were fireworks and music, from famous Japanese video games, to which each of the competing nations walked in, led by Greece, home of the Ancient Olympic Games, with host nation Japan entering the stadium last.

A total of 19 Indian athletes, including flag-bearers iconic boxer M C Mary Kom and men’s hockey team captain Manpreet Singh, besides six officials, participated in the ceremony. The country has a 228-strong delegation in Tokyo, including over 120 athletes.

Japanese emperor Naruhito walked in with International Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach.

Olympic rings made from the wood of trees planted from seeds brought to the country the last time it hosted the Olympics in 1964 were formed before the traditional Parade of Nations.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron on the main stage, atop an octagonal mountain inspired by Mount Fuji. The sphere opened like a flower to embody vitality and hope, a visual representation of the start of the Tokyo Games.

One of the best moments was when a staggering 1824 drones lit up the sky above the Olympic Stadium to form the Tokyo 2020 emblem in a spectacular show.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga message ahead of the Games was: “By hosting a safe and secure Tokyo 2020 Games, we hope to show the world that through sport, people can rediscover their connection with the planet and share their hopes and dreams with one another.”

Members of the Japanese self defense forces raised the national flag on the Protocol Stage as the national anthem ‘Kimi Ga Yo’ played in the background. The country’s famous singer Misia sang the national anthem. The event was a far cry from the glitzy ceremonies of London 2012 and Rio 2016 involving thousands of performers in packed stadiums, but it stayed in tune with the unprecedented time.

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