Tokyo Games start with 5,700 athletes on parade
Some of the athletes have skipped the ceremony because of early competitions on July 24 or to avoid risk of exposure to the coronavirus. And this parade differs from most others in the past because the nations are being spaced out, a nod to social distancing.
Hundreds of volunteers are on the stadium floor as well to greet the athletes as they walk through. Many athletes are waving; others are capturing their entrance on their phone cameras.
Moments before the parade, a wooden set of Olympic rings was displayed at the center of the stadium in a nod to the 1964 Tokyo Games. There, athletes from around the world were asked to bring seeds that could be planted and become trees.
Wood from 160 pines and spruces, seeds that came from Canada, Ireland and Northern Europe, were used to build the set of Olympic rings displayed on July 23.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach participated at the opening ceremony.
Naruhito attended the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a 4-year-old, watching the marathon and equestrian events. Bach won a gold medal in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Games.
They were followed by a delegation chosen to carry the Japanese flag into the stadium, before the host nation’s national anthem was performed by singer Misia.
Tributes were paid to those lost during the pandemic, and the Israeli delegation that was killed at the Munich Games in 1972. A moment of silence was offered inside the stadium.
With a blaze of indigo and white fireworks lighting the night sky, the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has started.
It began with a single female athlete at the center of the stadium, kneeling. As she stood, the shadow behind her took the shape of a seedling, growing as she walked. A number of athletes were featured in a video that started with the moment Tokyo won the Olympic bid in 2013, then eventually to images of a world silenced by the pandemic.
Then came the fireworks, a 20-second blast of light, as if to say these Olympics have finally emerged from dark times.
The International Olympic Committee has released the order of the parade of nations for the opening ceremony and the names of all the flagbearers.
Greece, per Olympic tradition, enters first. The host nation always enters last, so it’ll likely take a couple hours or so before Japanese flagbearers Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura lead their national contingent into the stadium.
The Refugee Olympic team goes second in the parade. The others are slotted by their order in the Japanese alphabet, so Iceland and Ireland precede Azerbaijan, for example.
The IOC says 206 teams, 205 nations and the refugee team, will be taking part in the opening ceremony. Some nations will have their flags carried by volunteers. Other nations will have only one flagbearer. Most will have two, with one male and one female athlete chosen for the role.