Let The Games Begin: The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

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NPR 23 July, 2021 - 10:28am 38 views

What time is the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony?

When does the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony start? It starts at 8 p.m. Friday local time at the National Stadium in Tokyo. That's noon in London, 7 a.m. in New York and 4 a.m. in San Francisco. It is scheduled to last for 3½ hours. The Wall Street JournalTokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony: When It Starts and How to Watch It

Is there an opening ceremony for the Olympics 2021?

Athletes from over 200 nations will bear their flags and get ready to ignite the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo on Friday. The Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony will be broadcast in the United States early Friday morning and again on Friday night in prime time. The TennesseanHow to watch Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony on TV, live stream plus Friday schedule

Will there be opening ceremonies at Tokyo Olympics?

Where is the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony taking place? The opening ceremony will take place at the Japan National Stadium, aka the Olympic Stadium. CNETTokyo Olympics opening ceremony: Start time, how to watch

Will the opening ceremony be replayed?

The event will be replayed on Saturday in the US, along with events such as 3x3 US women's basketball, rowing, archery and men's cycling, between 10:45 a.m. ET and 2:45 p.m. ET. CNNTokyo Olympics underway: Live updates

TOKYO — In a virtually empty stadium, the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is happening on a global stage as the world still grapples with the grief and anxiety brought on by a pandemic that continues to rage.

Olympic organizers are attempting to reflect that universal struggle by putting on a more subdued affair than usual, celebrating the world's top athletes coming together to compete and sending a message of hope at a time of isolation.

It will be tricky to strike the right tone.

The ceremony marks the official start of the Games, which were postponed due to the pandemic.

But a year on, the majority of Japanese people see the Olympics as an unnecessary danger that puts the population's health at risk while depriving them of any of the joy of hosting the Games — namely attending and showcasing the beauty of their country. Protesters have gathered today on the streets of Tokyo.

The ceremony will preach a message of unity in adversity while showcasing Japanese traditions and culture recognized across the globe — traditions that include anime and video games. Japanese celebrities will perform and the Emperor of Japan will appear.

From manga to Mt. Fuji, Japanese art and culture will be on full display during the ceremony.

When the athletes enter the stadium, the sound of video game theme music will play, and placards featuring manga designs will announce them.

The main stage is meant to symbolize Mt. Fuji. The podium is reminiscent of a fan, with a pattern meant to symbolize a prayer for growth and prosperity.

A percussion and tap-dancing performance highlights a traditional work song used by firefighters in old Tokyo. The ceremony also showcased a famous performer of kabuki, a style of theater famous in Japan.

The Olympic rings used in the ceremony were wheeled in surrounded by softly lit paper lanterns. They are made out of wood, using a traditional Japanese style of craftsmanship called yosegi-zaiku. The wood comes from trees planted by athletes when Japan last hosted the Olympics, in 1964.

The ceremony will also feature pictograms symbolizing different sports that were first used during the 1964 Games.

The audience for the show is almost entirely virtual – the massive Olympic Stadium, which can accommodate 68,000, will have less than 1,000 people in the stands. Those are largely journalists, Olympic officials and dignitaries such as First Lady Jill Biden.

The entrances and stairs leading to the national stadium are lined with Hydrangea plants. In Japan the plant represents understanding, emotion and apology. Each plant is affixed with a note written by elementary students from schools nearby.

"Welcome to Tokyo! Let's support each other!" one read. Another said, "Good luck in the world."

On the stadium grounds, a small gaggle of journalists and other spectators took pictures of each other with the Olympic rings. Only a couple snack stands are open. The red, white and green seats are virtually empty.

Outside, a small group of Japanese fans film and take pictures of the dribble of guests headed inside. Some wear surfing shirts, a new sport for the Tokyo Olympics.

The messages of hope from inside the stadium stood in stark contrast to the sentiment of hundreds of Japanese protesters who gathered in central Tokyo at Harajuku station shortly before the ceremony started.

A demonstrator held up a sign that said, "No Olympics 2020! Use that money for COVID-19!" An older man in a pageboy hat clutched a large banner that said, "Bread Not Circuses."

Rows of police escorted the demonstrators as they marched through town, and chanting and banging on drums.

The protesters said they're angry about the money and the attention being poured into the Olympics, when they think that money should be used to battle against COVID-19. They vowed to continue fighting.

The program will acknowledge to the deep anxiety of the moment — not just because of the coronavirus, but also from the decision to hold the Games at all.

The very first images of the ceremony were short videos of athletes practicing at their homes, alone — then a countdown showed athletes coming together and competing, as fireworks exploded above the stadium.

"Everyone has different feelings about holding a Games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," the organizers said. The opening segment of the ceremony is designed to "be modest and intimate, in the hope that it will reach every single person."

The performance opened with a lone athlete — Japanese boxer Arisa Tsubata — working out on a treadmill. Other athletes joined her, and a light show and dancers symbolize individuals making connections, even though they are apart.

About 5,700 participants are set to march in the parade — a small fraction of the number of athletes that would typically appear at an Opening Ceremony.

Still, despite the lack of roaring crowds, the athletes are jubilant and wave to TV cameras and empty seats. Many are decked out in clothing showcasing the traditions and fashion of their nations. For example, Afghanistan's flag bearers wore intricately embroidered clothing; Ghana's team had on crisp white suits with colorful patterned accents. The flag bearers from the tiny island nation of Tuvalu marched barefoot in colorful skirts, flower crowns and leafy arm bands.

Argentina's team bounced excitedly in unison together, and the Irish delegation made a respectful bow to the Japanese cast members as they entered the stadium.

In a shift for this Olympics, two flag bearers are allowed to represent each country — one male athlete and one female athlete.

Team USA expected approximately 200 of its athletes to march in the Opening Ceremony — about a third of the total group. The athletes were able to choose whether or not they would participate, and much of the team is not yet in Japan.

At least one large delegation decided to skip the Opening Ceremony, only sending its flag bearers. Brazil announced before the ceremony that it decided participating in the parade was too risky for its athletes.

Read full article at NPR

Opinion | In Tokyo, the Olympic show goes on amid the pandemic. Can fans feel good about cheering?

The Washington Post 23 July, 2021 - 07:00am

This moment should be about celebrating athletes. Every four years, thousands gather to compete in the array of Summer Olympic sports. Athletes train, usually for years, for the chance to compete for their country, and to possibly even medal. Around the world, viewers watch the proceedings with hope and pride.

This week, instead of looking forward to elaborate celebrations of the Opening Ceremonies, people the world over are watching news reports with bated breath. On Tuesday, the head of Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee, Toshiro Muto, refused to rule out a last-minute cancellation as coronavirus cases spike. We’re all hoping that these covid-restricted Games don’t turn into a superspreader event — and a public-health nightmare.

The news from Japan so far is hardly encouraging. More than 90 people affiliated with the Games have tested positive, including U.S. tennis phenom Coco Gauff, and Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal will miss the Games after entering coronavirus protocols. Tokyo is operating in a state of emergency, and spectators have been barred from Olympic venues as officials try to restrict vulnerability to the virus.

Much has been written about the financial interest in these Games — the billions spent for TV rights; the lost revenue from spectators; the advertising (and potential endorsement) revenue at risk if there is a delay on top of last year’s postponement. And polls have long shown that majorities of the Japanese people favor postponing again or canceling.

What does all this mean for the athletes? My local favorites — five track and field Olympians from the University of Kansas — will be abiding by rules listed in a three-inch-thick manual that KU track coach Stanley Redwine says is just a new way of doing things.

“There is not going to be any outside mingling; we are only restricted to go in, compete and leave,” Redwine, who is an assistant coach on the U.S. track and field team, said at a news conference June 30.

“I am just excited that we are able to have the Games,” he said. “I understand covid is real, people are losing their lives, and so I am excited that we are able to have the Games and let these athletes do what they do best.”

Are these Games what’s best for any of us?

Yes, the athletes will compete, but will the feats that defy explanation fall somehow flat without the electricity of cheering crowds? Will choreographed moments still become iconic, as at the 1996 Atlanta Games, when heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali, while suffering from Parkinson’s disease, lit the Olympic flame? Can viewers safe at home cheer with joy knowing that these athletes are isolated, competing without fans or family to support them at their biggest — or lowest — moments, and fearing they may catch the virus?

And that’s for those who made it to Japan. Apart from the virus-related exits, pandemic travel mayhem prevented some athletes who qualified from being able to go.

None of this is to suggest that sports can’t be played amid a pandemic. They can. The NBA bubbles are examples of how teams and support staff, and the journalists who cover it all, can safely isolate, compete and report on the games. But those players isolated for nearly 80 days, much longer than the span of these Summer Games. The NBA bubble consisted of 22 of its 30 teams, comprising hundreds of people, whereas the Olympics will host more than 11,000 competitors, coaches and staff from around the world.

Will we look back on these Games after the delta variant threat has receded and see them as Exhibit A in what not to do amid a pandemic?

I fondly remember the Sarajevo Olympics of 1984, not so much for it being the first Winter Games held in a socialist state, or for how Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean dazzled in ice dancing, but for the many hours watching and eagerly anticipating the birth of my daughter. There’s a joy in cheering on fellow countrymen, upstarts and surprise winners, and appreciating their love of sport.

Watching athletes do what they do best, for the love of the sport, is integral to the Games. Right now, the Olympic show is going on. I’ll wear crimson and blue when my local favorites hit the track. I won’t be deterred by the 14-hour time difference. And I’ll be praying that all of the athletes are safe and that their Olympic dreams don’t turn into pandemic nightmares.

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony: Live Updates as the Games Begin

The New York Times 23 July, 2021 - 04:38am

The cauldron will be lit, some of the athletes will parade into Olympic Stadium, and a night of music and celebration will play out mainly for a television audience.

Botswana wins the fashion show for me. Off-the-shoulder simple blue dresses with white stripes for accents. Love it.

Juliet, we are only halfway through. Way too early to call it.

Belgium: Where the men wear suits, and the women wear rompers?

The U.S. is also not going in alphabetical order. Because Los Angeles is an upcoming host. That’s why you haven’t seen France yet either.

Victor, we are only halfway through the Japanese alphabet.

Benin looks great. Those outfits are actually fun.

One of Puerto Rico’s flag bearers, the table tennis player Ᏼrian Afanador, gestured as if he was rocking a baby to sleep as he carried the flag. He’s a new dad!!

🇵🇷🇵🇷🇵🇷 pic.twitter.com/PgxY0M8uw5

Brazil did a little dance to enter. Very impressive choreography.

Brazil, the last host of the Summer Olympics, marches with a tiny contingent of four

Bhutan all but mandates national dress in the country. The kilts show off men’s calves. Women’s outfits are more modest.

I just thought: hey, we missed Japan alphabetically in Japanese, but I guess the host always goes last. In Japanese, Japan is "Nippon" or "Nihon."

Paraguay doing their best impression of candy canes.

And there is another shirtless oiled-up flagbearer, courtesy of Vanuatu! Sarah, check out his academic credentials.

Taufatofua was back on Friday when he marched in Tokyo at his third Olympiad, where he will compete in taekwondo. Earlier in the day, Taufatofua said he was still shocked by the reaction to his traditional outfit.

“It was really a surprise to me,” he said in a telephone interview on Friday. “All of a sudden, within a day, the social media went through the roof. Who’s your manager? We need to talk. I didn’t even know what those words meant.”

Ultimately, Taufatofua embraced the attention. He is now a motivational speaker and a UNICEF ambassador.

“The Olympics, to me, isn’t even about the athletes,” he said. “I think we are just a representation of every single person on the planet trying to overcome something.”

Taufatofua, who took up taekwondo as a child, rejected the notion that he is simply trying to cash in on his Olympic fame. He lost in the first round in Rio, but noted that half the judo competitors in the Olympics did the same. He also had to fight a top-ranked opponent.

“It’s an honor to fight these guys,” he said. “I’m not out there to be the best in the world. I’m out here to be the best version of me.”

Taufatofua was coy about what he planned to wear at the opening ceremony.

“We just have to wait and see what the Olympics brings, you know?” he said. “You know, it’s the greatest show on earth we’re in.”

(He arrived as he had in Rio, in traditional costume. Expect him to be trending online again any minute.)

The hot, shirtless Tongan flagbearer from Rio is BACK! (Also he apparently has a degree in engineering, so do not objectify him.)

Tonga is a ... well-oiled-up opening ceremony machine.

Well at least this time the Tongan flagbearer is not in Pyeongchang marching in that costume in sub zero temperatures.

Sarah, they are by Ralph Lauren. Do you need any more explanation?

One sight familiar from ceremonies past. Local volunteers, when idle, sit in the stadium aisles to catch a glimpse of the event. Many choose to volunteer at the Games do be a part of something they find exciting and different. Quite a few here are watching and enjoying the spectacle with little cynicism.

Dominica has two athletes, and they both look great.

Oh my goodness, NBC has just showed a preview of the American athletes as they prepare to enter the stadium. They look like they were cut from a scene of South Pacific. Vanessa, please explain the striped shirts?

Sarah, I noticed some Team USA members had turned their striped cravats into bandannas and put them around their foreheads to sop up some sweat. That’s one way to adapt.

I would like to put it out there that I would not like to have a job that required me to wear anything resembling a cravat.

Wow, Tajikistan is in three-piece suits. That’s commitment.

Nice foliage from Tuvalu. And the helpful “Tuvalu” printed on the bandeau top.

Curious how NBC is deciding who gets the split-screen treatment during commercials and which countries just get...skipped? Condensed?

In previous Olympics, Thai athletes have sometimes held up pictures of their king. This time, under a new king, no photos.

Sarah and Juliet, the Japanese fans have always been great at cheerleading for everyone. In Pyeongchang, Japanese fans brought flags for all the ice skaters and unfurled them when they skated.

South Korea enters as team No. 103. That means we’re halfway done!

China aims to win big these Games. But it’s unlikely they will match 2008 when Beijing hosted the Olympics and the country won the most gold medals of any country.

Can the athletes order out for food if they get hungry out there? Think of Greece, which gets the honor of arriving first because of its role in Olympic history, but which then has to wait around for what must seem like a millennium just to get out of the stadium.

Sarah, well, the volunteers had better up their game a bit then. The athletes look like they’re trying to find a way to slip out the back door of this party.

Juliet, the volunteers’ job is to greet and pysch up the athletes? Like cheerleaders from a neutral nation, equally on the side of everyone?

Volunteer update: Still dancing and jumping up and down as the athletes march in. An impressive show of energy and endurance. I’ll have what they’re having.

In Japanese, Saint Kitts and Nevis appears to be Saint Christopher and Nevis.

Something so charming about the athletes from Spain realizing they are on the jumbotron and starting to bounce and wave wildly.

Russian athletes who have not been caught doping themselves are still allowed to compete. But their team cannot be known as “Russia,” the Russian flag is banned and so is its anthem. Instead, the team was introduced as “Russian Olympic Committee.”

A good number of Russian athletes emerged 77th in the parade of nations, looking like any other country. Their flag included the Olympic rings, but also red, white and blue waves, not coincidentally the colors in Russia’s flag.

Without any fans present, there was no way to gauge the response of Olympic lovers to the team from any cheers or boos.

Spain always looks like it’s having so much fun!

Olympians hope to 'bring a little joy' to wary world as the games begin

Minneapolis Star Tribune 22 July, 2021 - 06:09pm

TOKYO — Thomas Gilman wanted nothing more than to go to Japan this summer, to wrestle for the U.S. team at the Tokyo Olympics. He was much less certain about whether Japan wanted him to come.

The Iowa native had read countless reports describing the country as a reluctant host for the pandemic-delayed Summer Games. Public opinion polls showed a majority of citizens favoring another postponement, or even cancellation. Anti-Olympics activists had staged small demonstrations and circulated petitions denouncing the Games.

On the bus ride to a Tuesday practice in Nakatsugawa, a town outside Tokyo where the team is training before the Games, Gilman found out what the residents thought. It wasn't what he expected.

"The streets were lined with people, waving the American flag,'' Gilman said. "They were cheering us on. They had signs with words of encouragement, words of love.

"It was almost emotional. If you just watched the news, you would think they wouldn't want us here. But they wanted to welcome us and help us out.''

The Olympics started late Tuesday night with softball games and soccer matches, played in empty stadiums. The curtain officially goes up at Friday's Opening Ceremony, where the usual pageantry, parades and fireworks will go on despite the circumstances. With Tokyo under its fourth pandemic-related state of emergency, organizers said Thursday that only about 950 people will be allowed inside National Stadium to see the show in person. Changes were still being made in recent days to a ceremony that has been plagued by scandals. This week the creative director and a composer were forced out of the production after inappropriate behavior from the 1990s came to light.

A poll this week by The Asahi Shimbun newspaper showed 55% of Japanese still are opposed to holding the Olympics. Despite those reservations, many seem determined to meet the moment with hospitality and grace.

Hundreds of workers have greeted travelers at the airport, cheerfully helping them through the complicated process of entering a country experiencing another COVID-19 surge. Olympic sites teem with volunteers — easily identified by their blue-and-white uniforms—rushing to assist any confused visitor.

The pandemic still hovers over these Olympics, as it has since the March 2020 decision to put the Games on hold for a year. The 1,979 cases of COVID-19 reported Thursday in Tokyo were the most in six months, and 91 people with Olympic accreditation have tested positive for COVID-19 since arriving in Japan.

That made for a much more subdued atmosphere than usual on the day before the Opening Ceremony. Many athletes didn't seem to mind, given what it took just to get to the starting line.

"There's no fanfare,'' U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe said after Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Sweden in the teams' Olympic opener. "There is signage. You have the (Olympic-logo) lanyard, the things that feel like the Olympics. But it's definitely different.

"We understand how lucky we are to even have this, and hopefully we can bring a little joy and entertainment to everyone watching around the world.''

At a typical Summer Games, fans from dozens of countries would be flooding into the city this week, drinking and partying and wearing their nation's colors. Tokyo has banned foreign spectators, sharply curtailing the number of international guests. Restaurants, bars and shops are off-limits to visitors who have not cleared a 14-day quarantine.

The locals face their own restrictions. With COVID infections rising, government officials want to prevent crowds from gathering. There will be no public viewing sites, and a waterfront area that was supposed to be a hub for fans will be closed, sapping much of the host-city energy from the Games.

The Olympic Village and Main Press Center still accommodated global crowds, but with COVID-19 mitigation measures that put some extra distance into an event that's all about togetherness. Tall plexiglass dividers turned every communal table into a series of cubicles. Alcohol won't be served in public areas in the village.

Olympic organizers already have limited the amount of time athletes can reside in the village, and some teams are choosing not to stay there at all. The U.S. women's basketball team will stay elsewhere but stopped by the village on Wednesday so athletes could take in some of the atmosphere. Members of the U.S. track and field team who are living in the village are being extra vigilant about disease-prevention protocols.

"If it takes a COVID test every 12 hours, whatever it takes,'' said Clayton Murphy, who is entered in the men's 800 meters. "We're just super excited to finally have a Games.''

Many athletes plan to skip the Opening Ceremony, to avoid any risk of infection. The U.S. wrestlers were grateful to get their own private celebration during Tuesday's bus ride, a welcome dash of warmth amid the wariness.

"We were kind of zigzagging through the town,'' U.S. men's freestyle coach Bill Zadick said. "There were schoolchildren and adults and older people, with flags and signs and some great big banners that said, 'Go Team USA.'

"I sat back and took it in. It was a special moment, humbling and inspiring at the same time. We've had a very warm and gracious welcome, and they've been great hosts for us here in Nakatsugawa.''

Tokyo is 14 hours ahead of Twin Cities time. Friday's Opening Ceremony, with the theme "United by Emotion," begins at 5:55 a.m. Only about 950 spectators will be allowed, and the number of athletes in the parade of nations is expected to be greatly reduced. The ceremony will air live on NBC, with hosts Savannah Guthrie and Mike Tirico, and replayed at 6:30 p.m.

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