Olympics-Athletes parade in empty stadium as Tokyo Video games open in shadow of pandemic By Reuters

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© Reuters. Girls carrying conventional summer season Yukata kimonos and wigs bounce in entrance of the Nationwide Stadium, the principle stadium of Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo, Japan July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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By Antoni Slodkowski, Elaine Lies and Kiyoshi Takenaka

TOKYO (Reuters) – In an Olympic opening ceremony like none earlier than, one custom held agency on Friday as athletes from internationally paraded into an eerie, virtually empty nationwide stadium to characterize their nations, for the primary time their smiles hidden behind masks.

Most international locations have been represented by each female and male flagbearers in an Olympic first, however not all people took pandemic measures – groups from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and the Pakistan flagbearers paraded maskless in an ungainly distinction to protocol.

The opening ceremony, usually a star-studded show teeming with celebrities, lacked the same old glitz with fewer than 1,000 folks in attendance, strict social distancing guidelines and indicators calling on spectators to “be quiet across the venue.”

Regardless, it marked a coming collectively of the world, with an viewers of a whole bunch of tens of millions across the globe and at varied levels of the pandemic tuning in to observe the beginning of the best present in sport.

Members of the Canada delegation wore patches within the color of the rainbow, the image of the LGBT neighborhood, on their jackets. U.S. first girl Jill Biden clapped the Individuals as did France President Emmanuel Macron for the French workforce.

The Olympic oath, recited by the athletes on the finish of the parade, has been up to date for the Tokyo Video games, with athletes swearing their dedication to inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination for the primary time on the Olympics.

Most nations have been represented by a person and a lady after the organisers modified their guidelines to permit two flagbearers.

OLYMPIC RINGS

The opening additionally featured fireworks in indigo and white, the colors of the Tokyo 2020 emblem, and gave a nod to Japanese custom represented by big wood Olympic rings linked to the 1964 Video games.

A vastly smaller variety of athletes, about 20 per nation, marched within the groups’ parade, with many flying in simply earlier than their competitions and as a result of go away shortly after to keep away from infections.

Delegations tried their finest to liven the temper. Uganda, carrying vivid conventional costumes, did just a few measures of a dance, whereas the Argentine delegation jumped up and down on getting into.

There have been additionally a wide range of masks, from plain blue or white surgical masks to others within the colors of the nationwide flags or emblazoned with nationwide seals, however a number of teams paraded maskless, sparking anger on Japanese Twitter.

Athletes marched to the music of a few of Japan’s best-selling video video games akin to Dragon Quest and Closing Fantasy, as nation names on placards have been proven in speech bubbles usually utilized in manga cartoons.

WITHOUT FANS

Postponed for a yr, organisers have been pressured to take the unprecedented step of holding the Olympics with out followers because the novel coronavirus is on the rise once more, taking lives world wide.

The opening video featured on the stadium recapped Japan’s path to the Video games and the challenges the world has confronted because the number of the Japanese capital as host in 2013.

It confirmed how the coronavirus struck in 2020, with lockdowns forcing the unprecedented postponement solely 4 months earlier than the Video games have been as a result of open, setting off a roller-coaster interval of uncertainty and preparations in isolation for the athletes.

A second of silence was held “for all these household and mates we’ve misplaced,” particularly to the coronavirus, and point out was fabricated from the Israeli athletes slain on the 1972 Munich Video games.

Japan had billed the Olympics as an echo of the 1964 Tokyo Video games, which marked the nation’s return to the world stage after its devastating World Warfare Two defeat, however this time showcasing its restoration from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

PANDEMIC IMPACT

Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Worldwide Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, each masked, entered the stadium and bowed to one another earlier than sitting down socially distanced.

The enormous wood rings have been carried onto the sector on a platform, guided by the sunshine of many paper lanterns. They have been fabricated from lumber from timber that grew from the seeds borne by athletes from nations taking part within the 1964 Video games.

Solely 15 world leaders are in attendance. Emperor Naruhito, who will formally open the Video games as his grandfather Hirohito did in 1964, clapped because the athletes marched.

The ceremony was marked by high-profile absences, together with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who wooed the Video games to Tokyo. Prime sponsors additionally stayed away, highlighting sturdy opposition to the occasion in COVID-fatigued Japan.

Lots of of protesters carrying placards that learn “Lives over Olympics” protested across the venue yelling “Cease the Olympics”.

Solely a 3rd of the host nation have had even one dose of vaccines, prompting worries the Video games might turn out to be a super-spreader occasion. Greater than 100 folks concerned with the Olympics have already examined optimistic.

The Olympics have been hit by a string of scandals, together with the exit of senior officers over derogatory feedback about ladies, jokes in regards to the Holocaust and bullying.