The Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics got underway on Friday, kicking off with a subdued performance in front of a nearly empty Olympic Stadium that acknowledged the pandemic that caused the Games to be postponed a year ago.
Dancers and athletes began the performance by working out and training alone, under conditions that reflected the distancing and isolation caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19). The sequence then evolved into a symbol of the Olympics bringing the world back together, with a stylized sequence of dancers connecting to one another with brightly colored red bands.
The singer Misia sang Japan’s national anthem, and a performance followed featuring dancers dressed as craftsmen constructing the interlocking Olympic rings as traditional Japanese music played.
The Parade of Nations began next, with Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, leading the way, followed by the team of refugee athletes. Smaller delegations, athletes wearing masks and extended distances between the teams are all reminders of the pandemic conditions under which the Games are being held.
The remaining nations are entering the stadium in order according to their names in Japanese, with teams such as Iceland and Ireland toward the front of the procession.
This year, the next two hosts of the Summer Games, the United States and France, will come in just ahead of Japan.
Just before the ceremony began, U.S. first lady Jill Biden published an open letter in support of the members of Team USA on the NBC News website.
“Your entire nation is cheering you on, and we are grateful for what you’ve given us: the chance to come together in common awe and appreciation for your accomplishments and the shared joy of rooting for our country on the edge of our seats,” she wrote.
Biden is leading the Team USA delegation.
Friday’s Opening Ceremony is a scaled-down version of the usual spectacle of lights, music and eye-catching choreography.Its theme is “United by Emotion,” and the organizers said they hope the event will “be an experience that conveys how we all have the ability to celebrate differences, to empathize and to live side by side with compassion for one another.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told Kyodo News that the ceremony would be “very emotional,” as it will be the first time since the pandemic began that “you will see the whole world in one place.”
However, the usual pomp and circumstance have been dialed down significantly. There won’t be any cheering crowds inside Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. Only around 950 VIPs, including Olympic officials and delegates, are in attendance in the 68,000-seat stadium.