Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Olympics-Superstar Osaka lights flame as Japan's COVID-hit Games open

WorldJul 23, 2021 03:39PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
5/5 © Reuters. Women wearing traditional summer Yukata kimonos and wigs jump in front of the National Stadium, the main stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato 2/5

By Antoni Slodkowski, Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) -Japan's global superstar Naomi Osaka on Friday lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the start of Tokyo 2020, in an opening ceremony shorn of glitz and overshadowed by a pandemic but defined by hope, tradition and gestures of diversity.

Postponed by a year due to the coronavirus, the Games are being held without spectators in a city under a COVID-induced state of emergency, as many other parts of the globe also still struggle with a resurgence of cases.

Athletes, the vast majority wearing masks, paraded through an eerily silent National Stadium where flagbearers for the first time were both men and women and the Canadian delegation marched with rainbow badges on their uniforms in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

In its journey through the stadium, the torch was passed from Olympic champions to baseball legends - one born in Taiwan - a doctor and a nurse, a Paralympian, and children from parts of Japan hit badly by the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

It was finally handed to Osaka, the 23-year-old four-time tennis grand slam champion whose background as the daughter of a Haitian man and Japanese woman reflects the changes and slowly growing diversity coming to a once ethnically homogeneous country.

"Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life," Osaka wrote in a tweet. "I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness."

Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said in his opening speech addressing the athletes: "The lesson we learned is we need more solidarity - more solidarity among societies, and solidarity within societies."

But the shift towards greater inclusiveness has not come without stumbles. Tokyo 2020 has been hit by a string of scandals, including the exit of senior officials over derogatory comments about women, Holocaust jokes and bullying.

Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, the ceremony was low-key, with fewer than 1,000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to "be quiet around the venue."

Opening with videos showing empty streets around the world and an athlete training alone in darkness, it also included drones hovering over Tokyo's National Stadium in the shape of the Olympic logo morphing into planet earth and a global performance via videolink of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's "Imagine".

"With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties," said local organising committee President Seiko Hashimoto.

The ceremony climaxed with a fusion of traditional kabuki theatre - with its elaborate makeup and costumes - and a jazz piano improvisation, on a stage topped with the cauldron for the Olympic flame.

At the parade, most countries were represented by both male and female flagbearers in an Olympic first, but not everybody stuck to pandemic protocols. In an awkward contrast to most other athletes, teams from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and Pakistan's flagbearers paraded https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/maskless-kyrgyzstan-rain-olympic-opening-parade-other-teams-cover-faces-2021-07-23 maskless.

ECHOES OF '64

The opening also featured fireworks in indigo and white, the colours of the Tokyo 2020 emblem, and gave a nod to Japanese tradition represented by giant wooden Olympic rings linked to the 1964 Games, which the city also hosted.

Some delegations enlivened the mood. Uganda, wearing bright traditional costumes, did a few measures of a dance, while Argentine athletes jumped up and down on entering.

A moment of silence was held "for all those family and friends we have lost," especially to COVID-19. The Israeli athletes slain at the 1972 Munich Games were also remembered https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/israelis-killed-1972-munich-games-remembered-opening-ceremony-2021-07-23.

Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Bach, both masked, cheered on the athletes after bowing to each other before sitting down.

"Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us imagined. But finally we are all here together," said Bach.

Unlike his grandfather who opened the 1964 Games with a Japanese word that means "congratulations," Naruhito opted for a more neutral word in Japanese that is closer to "commemorate".

The ceremony was marked by major absences, including former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wooed the Games to Tokyo. Top sponsors also stayed away, highlighting strong opposition to the event within COVID-fatigued Japan.

Only a third of Japanese have had even one dose of vaccines, prompting worries the Games could become a super-spreader event. More than 100 people involved with the Olympics have already tested positive.

Hundreds of people protested around the venue, and a recent poll showed 55% of respondents saying they opposed the event going ahead, with 68% expressing doubt about the ability of Olympic organisers to control coronavirus infections.

But not everyone was opposed.

"It's a difficult time. But when I think about the feelings of those athletes who have been prepared for this competition, I really want the Games to be held even without spectators," said 54-year-old Tokyo resident Hideko Kobori, who watched the opening ceremony with her husband and three children at home.

Olympics-Superstar Osaka lights flame as Japan's COVID-hit Games open
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email