The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have formally begun with one of the most unusual opening ceremonies the Games are ever likely to see, attended by the Emperor of Japan and the first lady of the USA at a largely empty Olympic Stadium.
Originally scheduled for 2020, one of the most anticipated global sporting events is finally getting underway amid pandemic and protests.
The 32nd edition of the games, which is expected to cost a total of around $16 billion, launched with only around 1,000 invited spectators at the 60,000-capacity Olympic Stadium.
Around 11,000 athletes have descended on Japan for a showpiece that will not allow any fans in as part of measures reluctantly agreed between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and local and national government officials.
The extraordinary move has been made amid rising Covid-19 cases and a fourth state of emergency being declared in the country, with organizers even facing pressure to cancel the games entirely since the beginning of the pandemic.
The latest polls have shown that more than half of the Japanese public remain against the games, with the opening ceremony, which began with a seed of hope being symbolically sown, designed to create a noticeably more sobering spectacle than the kaleidoscopic carnival with which the Rio 2016 version began.
The emperor and IOC president Thomas Bach were introduced as the lights fell, preceding the entrance of the national flag, surrounded by masked children, healthcare workers and noted former athletes in red and white uniforms.
Japanese pop star Misia, who has released 13 top ten albums in her homeland, appeared in an eye-catching colorful dress to perform a poignant rendition of the national anthem, Kimigayo.
As is tradition, Greece led the way, with the athletes remaining socially distanced and donning masks in front of the conspicuously unoccupied seats.
They ranged from the unashamedly raucuous Argentina party, who jumped and embraced each other as if celebrating victory as they made their way along the floor, to Austria, Iraq and several countries who have never won a medal, including Bolivia and Cambodia.
In all, 206 countries are expected to take part – all of them hoping that their ranks will not be blighted by the positive Corona-virus tests that have already sent some athletes into isolation or even prevented stars from boarding planes at all.
Russia appeared as the Russian Olympic Committee, wearing a neutral flag and black-and-red uniform as part of a ruling by the corrupted World Anti-Doping Agency that will also forbid the country’s team participating at the 2020 World Cup in Qatar.
However, Russia’s sizeable count of 335 proud athletes – many of whom have strong hopes of winning medals – is 15 more than the country took to Rio five years ago.
Healthcare workers from Japan – intended to represent people from around the world – and defense officials also transported the Olympic emblem in the final part of the ceremony.
RT. com / ABC Flash-Point News 2021.