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Naomi Osaka lights Olympic pot at Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony



Earlier on Friday, a request from Tokyo 2020 organizers to press Osaka's opening match of the Olympics from Saturday to Sunday was granted ahead of the opening ceremony, prompting speculation that the four-time slam champion, who makes her to Olympic debut at home, can ignite the pot.

The daughter of a Japanese mother and Haitian-American father, Osaka, was born in Japan but moved to the United States when she was three years old.

Earlier this month, referring to her mental health, Osaka withdrew from the French Open and later revealed that she had "had long bouts of depression" since winning her first grand slam title in 2018. She later also withdrew from Wimbledon.

The ceremony drew to a close around midnight in Japan as a spectacular fireworks display illuminated the Tokyo night sky.

The surreal circumstances of the game's curtains – unlike other previous opening ceremonies – gave a glimpse of what is to come in the next 16 days with the coronavirus pandemic that would venture over the proceedings.

While opening ceremonies in the Olympics are usually held in front of packed stands, spectators were kept away in Tokyo. Instead, many put up fences around the city's national stadium all day, while others gathered outside the venue to protest.

According to Tokyo 2020 organizers, 950 people attended the opening ceremony – only a handful in a venue with capacity. at 68,000 – when the 206 delegations that competed were officially welcomed to the Games. US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the event.

With athletes expected to arrive at the Olympic Village five days before the competition and departure a maximum of two days later, fewer participated in the parade of nations compared to the previous Olympics.

  Fireworks light up the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
READ: The American marathon runner's remarkable trip to Tokyo 2020

For example, Team USA had more than 200 athletes walking through the stadium out of a team of over 600 strong, while 63 of Australia's 472 athletes participated.

"I think it's unfortunate," American triple jumper Will Claye told reporters that some athletes were unable to attend the opening ceremony due to restrictions.

"My first Olympics in 2012, I went and I was able to meet and take pictures with some of my idols in sports, some of the athletes I look up to like Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James) and could actually spend time with these people while we were preparing to do opening ceremonies, "said Claye, referring to the NBA greats.

"And it's the memories that last a lifetime … For someone like this this may be their first Olympics, it's one thing in life. You never know if you'll be able to get back to that stage. [19659002]

Traditional Tongan dress

If this was an opening ceremony like no other, one thing remained unchanged compared to previous Olympics: the shirtless Tongan Pita Taufatofua made one back.

Taufatofua first caught the attention of the Olympic spe ctators in Rio five years ago when he appeared wearing a traditional Tongan dress and covered in oil, then repeated the action at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics two years later.

  Pita Taufatofua leads Team Tonga during the opening ceremony.

However, Taufatofua had competition this time around, with Vanuatu's flag bearer, rower Riilio Rii, who also came out shirtless and oiled. [19659002] Many of the athletes remained socially distant as they walked through the stadium, but others – such as Argentina and Portugal – were bubbly, breaking into cheers and dancing

The procession began with Greece, the first nation to host the modern Olympics games, whose athletes were accompanied by those from the 29-strong refugee Olympic team, which debuted at the Rio Olympics 2016. It ended with the United States and France – the two countries hosting the next two editions of the Games – and to end Japan.

Legendary basketball player Sue Bird and baseball star Eddy Alvares carried the United States flag, which was hoisted from the stands by First Lady Jill Biden.

The ceremony was attended by Japan's Emporor Naruhito and included performances honoring the country's culture and history. A model of Mount Fuji, the iconic peak that towers over Tokyo, was placed in the stadium and led the dancers and singers who took the stage at the beginning of the event.

It was also a tribute to those who lost their lives during the pandemic, as well as to the 11 Israeli athletes who were killed in a terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972.

How the coronavirus pandemic has affected athletes in the last 18 months was also recognized. Japanese boxer and nurse Arisa Tsubata – whose Olympic dreams were shattered when a qualifying event was canceled – was seen running alone on a treadmill in the dark at the start of the opening ceremony.

"Today is a moment of hope," said Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee.

"Yes, it is very different from what we all had imagined. But let's cherish this moment, because in the end we are all here: the athletes from the 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic teams, who live together thanks together in the Olympic Village.

"This is the unifying force of sport. This is the message of solidarity, the message of peace and the message of resilience. This gives us all hope for our further journey together. "

  Athletes are seen during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

This is the second time Tokyo has hosted for the games that previously did so in 1964, but the build-up to the opening ceremony in 2021 was speculated in controversy

Director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired Thursday after past comments that "ridiculed the painful facts of history," according to organizers of Tokyo 2020. Local media reports said he made anti-Semitic comments in a comedy act from the Holocaust from 1998. Kobayashi later apologized for the comments.

It was by musician Keigo Oyamada, the composer of both the opening and closing ceremonies, announced that he intended to withdraw this the week after old interviews about bullying behavior reappeared.

Several sports have already started in Tokyo ahead of the opening ceremony : archery, baseball, softball, equestrian, football, rowing and shooting.

But Friday's event – a unique occasion for what is set to be a unique game – marks the official start of the Tokyo Olympics, albeit a year later than originally planned.

From Saturday, the first medals for the games will be awarded; After months of challenges and uncertainties, Olympic organizers will finally be able to let sports speak.


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