Naomi Osaka lights Olympic cauldron at Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony

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By George Ramsay, CNN

With nary fans successful attendance and a reduced fig of athletes joining the parade, the Tokyo OlympicsOpening Ceremony officially kicked disconnected the Summer Games connected Friday arsenic tennis prima Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron.

Earlier connected Friday, a petition from Tokyo 2020 organizers to propulsion backmost Osaka’s opening lucifer of the Olympics from Saturday to Sunday was granted up of the opening ceremony, fueling speculation that the four-time expansive slam champion, who is making her Olympic debut connected location soil, mightiness airy the cauldron.

The girl of a Japanese parent and Haitian-American father, Osaka was calved successful Japan but moved to the US erstwhile she was 3 years old.

Earlier this month, citing her intelligence health, Osaka withdrew from the French Open, revealing afterwards that she had “suffered agelong bouts of depression” since winning her archetypal expansive slam rubric successful 2018. She aboriginal besides withdrew from Wimbledon.

The ceremonial drew to a adjacent astir midnight successful Japan arsenic a spectacular firework show illuminated the Tokyo nighttime sky.

The surreal circumstances of the Games’ curtain raiser — dissimilar immoderate different erstwhile opening ceremonial — provided a glimpse of what is to travel implicit the adjacent 16 days with the coronavirus pandemic set to loom ample over proceedings.

While opening ceremonies of the Olympics are usually staged successful beforehand of packed stands, spectators were kept distant successful Tokyo. Instead, galore lined the fences astir the city’s National Stadium passim the day, portion others gathered extracurricular the venue to protest.

According to Tokyo 2020 organizers, 950 radical attended the opening ceremonial — lone a fistful successful a venue with a capableness of 68,000 — arsenic the 206 delegations competing were officially welcomed to the Games. US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the event.

With athletes expected to get successful the Olympic Village 5 days anterior to their contention and depart a maximum of 2 days after, less took portion successful the parade of nations compared to erstwhile Olympics.

READ: US marathon runner’s singular travel to Tokyo 2020

Team USA, for example, had much than 200 athletes walking done the stadium retired of a squad that is implicit 600 strong, portion 63 of Australia’s 472 athletes took part.

“I deliberation it’s unfortunate,” American triple jumper Will Claye told reporters astir immoderate athletes not being capable to be the opening ceremonial owed to restrictions.

“My archetypal Olympics successful 2012, I walked and I was capable to conscionable and instrumentality pictures with immoderate of my idols successful sport, immoderate of the athletes that I look up to similar Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James) and really being capable to walk clip with these radical portion we were preparing to bash Opening Ceremonies,” said Claye, referring to the NBA greats.

“And those are the memories that past a beingness … For idiosyncratic who this whitethorn beryllium their archetypal Olympics, it’s a erstwhile successful a beingness thing. You ne'er cognize if you’ll beryllium capable to get backmost to that stage.

Traditional Tongan formal

If this was an opening ceremonial similar nary other, 1 happening remained unchanged compared to past Olympics: the shirtless Tongan Pita Taufatofua made a return.

Taufatofua archetypal caught the attraction of Olympic spectators successful Rio 5 years agone erstwhile helium appeared wearing accepted Tongan formal and covered successful oil. He past repeated the enactment astatine the PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2 years later.

However, Taufatofua had contention this clip around, with Vanuatu’s flag-bearer, rower Riilio Rii, besides coming retired shirtless and oiled.

Many of the athletes remained socially distant arsenic they walked done the stadium, but others — specified arsenic Argentina and Portugal — were exuberant, breaking into cheering and dancing

The procession began with Greece, the archetypal federation to big the modern Olympic Games, whose athletes were followed by those from the 29-strong Refugee Olympic Team, which debuted astatine the 2016 Rio Olympics. It concluded with the US and France — the 2 countries hosting the adjacent 2 editions of the Games — and yet Japan.

Legendary hoops subordinate Sue Bird and shot prima Eddy Alvares carried the emblem for the US, which was cheered connected from the stands by First Lady Jill Biden.

The ceremonial was attended by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and included performances that paid tribute to the country’s civilization and history. A exemplary of Mount Fuji, the iconic highest that towers implicit Tokyo, was placed successful the stadium and presided implicit the dancers and singers who took to the signifier astatine the commencement of the event.

There were besides tributes to those who person mislaid their lives during the pandemic, arsenic good arsenic to the 11 Israeli athletes killed successful a terror onslaught astatine the 1972 Munich Olympics.

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected athletes implicit the past 18 months was besides acknowledged. Japanese boxer and caregiver Arisa Tsubata — whose Olympic dreams were dashed erstwhile a qualifying lawsuit was canceled — was seen moving unsocial connected a treadmill successful acheronian astatine the commencement of the opening ceremony.

“Today is simply a infinitesimal of hope,” said International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

“Yes, it is precise antithetic from what each of america had imagined. But fto america cherish this infinitesimal due to the fact that yet we are each present together: the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, surviving nether 1 extortion unneurotic successful the Olympic Village.

“This is the unifying powerfulness of sport. This is the connection of solidarity, the connection of bid and the connection of resilience. This gives each of america anticipation for our further travel together.”

This is the 2nd clip that Tokyo has hosted the Games having antecedently done truthful successful 1964, but the buildup to the opening ceremonial successful 2021 was mired successful controversy

Director Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed Thursday pursuing past comments that “ridiculed the achy facts of history,” according to Tokyo 2020 organizers. Local media reports said helium made anti-Semitic comments successful a 1998 drama enactment astir the Holocaust. Kobayashi aboriginal apologized for his comments.

That was aft instrumentalist Keigo Oyamada, the composer for some the Opening and Closing Ceremonies — announced his volition to measurement down this week aft aged interviews of bullying behaviour resurfaced.

Several sports person already got underway successful Tokyo successful beforehand of the opening ceremony: archery, baseball, softball, equestrian, football, rowing and shooting.

But Friday’s lawsuit — a unsocial juncture for what is acceptable to beryllium a unsocial Games — marks the authoritative opening of the Tokyo Olympics, albeit a twelvemonth aboriginal than primitively planned.

From Saturday, the archetypal medals of the Games volition beryllium distributed; aft months of challenges and uncertainties, Olympic organizers volition yet beryllium capable to fto athletics bash the talking.

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