The Olympic torch, which witnessed a difficult path, will light the Olympic stadium until the end of the global event on Sunday evening, August 8, after two weeks of competitions in which 11,090 athletes will participate, who make up 206 delegations from all over the world (205 countries and the refugee team), who will compete for 339 medals. in 33 sports.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito officially announced the “opening of the Tokyo Games” in the middle of the ceremony, according to the old-fashioned formula, in front of only about 1,000 invited people, including dignitaries, Olympic organizers and officials, in the 68,000-seat stadium, after domestic and foreign fans were banned from attending the games.
After being postponed in March 2020 for a year, and becoming the first games to be postponed in peacetime, the Olympics journey included a long list of complications, at times threatening it from becoming the first modern post-war games to be canceled.
The President of the Organizing Committee, Seiko Hashimoto, said, “I welcome you all with all my heart. The whole world has faced enormous challenges with COVID-19. I want to pay tribute and appreciation to all the workers including those in the medical sector around the world as well.”
She recalled the 2011 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster in her country, “People all over the world helped us. Now 10 years later we can show you how much Japan has recovered… At the time, there was a question of how sports and athletes could play a role. Today, as the world faces major challenges, some are also asking about the power of sport and the value of the Olympic Games.”
She affirmed: “The citizens of the world and the Japanese people are with us in spirit at a time when athletes from all over the world are enjoying this Olympic stadium in Tokyo under the banner of the Olympic flag.”
Although Japanese officials were keen to repeat the guarantee of holding “safe” games, considering that they would be “evidence of mankind’s victory over the virus,” which contributed to a slight decline in the intensity of popular opposition in recent weeks, those opponents refused to let their voices be heard on the awaited day.
In contrast to the hundreds of Japanese who thronged outside the stadium to watch the fireworks and listen to the sounds from inside, they were confronted by dozens of opponents who demanded the “abolition of the Olympics” and the use of money to help the health sector, echoing inside the stadium walls.
While the majority of world leaders and heads of state preferred not to go to the Japanese capital, the most prominent attendees were French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the next edition in 2024, and US First Lady Jill Biden, along with German International Committee President Thomas Bach.
“Today is a moment of hope,” Bach said in his speech. “Yes, it is very different from the one we imagined. But let’s cherish this moment because we are here together: the athletes from the 205 National Olympic Committees and the Refugee Olympic Team, live under one roof in the Olympic Village.”
“You’ve had to face major challenges during your Olympic path. You experienced a lot of uncertainty during the pandemic. You didn’t know if you would be able to see your coach the next day,” added the former Olympic champion, who has repeatedly opposed the cancellation of the Games to the athletes.
Because the organizers had to cut the budget as a result of the losses they incurred, the ceremony was not as majestic as in the last versions, and this was reflected on the athletes, of whom about 5,700 attended, wearing masks, to the ceremony without the clamor of the crowd, out of about 11,000 who will compete in the Games.
The ceremony opened with a video showing the athletes exercising in their homes during the pandemic, before the fireworks were launched in the sky of the Olympic Stadium, and the attendees stood for a minute of silence in tribute to those who lost their lives due to the virus.
Official figures showed that the games cost 1.64 trillion yen, or 14.8 billion US dollars, including an additional 294 billion yen (2.6 billion dollars) due to a year-long delay.
Less prestige party
The ceremony, which was less prestige and showcasing than the last versions, witnessed artistic paintings with visual and sound effects, and embodied Japan’s love for traditional crafts and video games, which it exported to the world, as athletes entered the mission queues to the rhythm of music from famous games.
And 1824 drones decorated the sky of the stadium in the shape of the Olympic emblem before turning into a globe to the effect of the song “Imagine” by the late famous English singer John Lennon, which talks about a world free of racism, sectarian, ethnic discrimination and famine, in one of the most beautiful paintings concert.
After a difficult path for the torch, during which most of its stages were canceled in different parts of the country to avoid the gathering of delegations on the roads, it reached the Olympic stadium before the cauldron designed in the form of the sun and symbolizing the one on the Japanese flag was lit, to open in the form of a flower that embodies life and hope. It was placed on top of a design similar to the famous Mount Fuji, the highest in the country.