Japan’s emperor declares Tokyo Olympics open
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito officially opened the Tokyo Olympics on Friday in a nearly empty stadium after the Games were postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I declare open the Games of Tokyo,” Naruhito said during a three-hour ceremony attended by just a few hundred officials and dignitaries and several thousand athletes in the 68,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
Also, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron as the Tokyo Games opened on Friday.
Osaka lifted the torch to the gleaming cauldron, which had unfurled at the top of a ramp representing Mount Fuji, in the highlight of a ceremony that was stripped back over virus fears.
She was handed the torch by a group of children from the region around Fukushima which was devastated by a tsunami and a nuclear disaster in 2011.
It was an uplifting moment in a low-key ceremony that unfolded in front of fewer than 1,000 VIPs and several thousand athletes.
In another high point, nearly 2,000 synchronised drones formed a revolving globe over the stadium, to a cover version of John Lennon’s “Imagine”.
A reduced parade of about 5,700 athletes, far lower than the usual numbers, filed into the stadium, not all of them socially distanced but all wearing masks.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach acknowledged the Games would be “very different from what all of us had imagined”.
But “today is a moment of hope”, he said in an address.
The 16-day Games, with 339 gold medals across 33 sports, have a surreal air after the pandemic compelled organisers to make this the first Games with virtually no spectators.
Athletes are tested daily but they are performing on the biggest stage under the constant risk that a positive test could wreck their Olympic dreams. Punch