TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics have finally opened after a long journey filled with controversy, and an unprecedented one-year postponement because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proceedings officially began with Friday’s opening ceremony at the National Stadium, a mostly subdued affair mixed with joyous moments like a high-tech drone show, and capped by tennis star Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron.
Key events to watch on Saturday, July 24 (Tokyo time)
- 5 p.m. session: Gold and bronze medal matches in women’s 48 kg class; men’s 60 kg class
Softball (opening round)
- 10 a.m. Australia vs. Canada
- 8 p.m. Japan vs. Italy
Women’s soccer (group matches)
- 5 p.m. China vs. Zambia
- 5:30 p.m. Sweden vs. Australia
- 7:30 p.m. Japan vs. Great Britain
- 8:30 p.m. New Zealand vs. United States
Here are the latest developments:
Saturday, July 24
4:35 p.m. China has slammed U.S. Olympic broadcaster NBC over a map it showed during the opening ceremony. The map of China did not include Taiwan or the South China Sea, which “hurt the dignity and emotions of the Chinese people,” according to the country’s consulate in New York.
2:15 p.m. The IOC’s executive director for the Games, Christophe Dubi, has asked Olympic participants to remind one another of COVID-19 protocols, such as proper mask wearing and regular hand sanitizing.
Several athletes were criticized for marching in the opening ceremony without masks. Dubi says wearing masks is a habit that many overseas participants are not used to. “Now, if you have blatant behaviors that are absolutely unbearable, we will definitely take action,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Czech Olympic committee is investigating the cause of a COVID-19 outbreak among its team. Positive tests have already felled four Czech athletes from beach volleyball, table tennis and cycling competitions. Media reports indicate that infections could be traced to a charter flight on which passengers removed their masks.
Organizers earlier on Saturday reported 17 new Olympic-related infections overall, including one athlete, bringing the total up to 107. Over 34,000 people have arrived in Japan for the Games.
1:00 p.m. The International Judo Federation has suspended an Algerian judoka and his coach for withdrawing from the Olympics before his event started, after the draw put him on course to face an Israeli, Reuters reports.
Fethi Nourine and his coach Amar Benikhlef withdrew to show their support for the Palestinian cause. But the IJF said the move was “in total opposition to the philosophy of the International Judo Federation.”
“The IJF has a strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo,” the federation said.
Athletes from other countries such as Iran have similarly shunned Israeli competitors in the past.
12:10 p.m. Tokyo 2020 says they failed to hand out PCR test kits to some athletes earlier this week at the Olympic Village due to a shortage. According to the “Playbook” guidelines, athletes are subject to daily tests. Organizers say that more test kits will be delivered today, and that there should not be a shortage from now on.
12:00 p.m. As Typhoon In-fa hits Okinawa in southwestern Japan, rowing competitions in Tokyo are rescheduled for Saturday and Sunday. Sailing and surfing events are still set for Monday. The weakening storm is expected to hit Tokyo on Sunday or Monday.
11:30 a.m. China has bagged the Tokyo Games’ first gold medal. Yang Qian wins the hardware in the women’s 10-meter rifle competition. Russian and Swiss athletes place second and third.
Yang Qian of China celebrates winning gold in the women’s 10-meter rifle competition on July 24. © Reuters
3:00 a.m. The opening ceremony notably included a moment of silence in memory of the Israeli delegation members killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Games.
“We, the Olympic community, also remember all the Olympians and members of our community who have so sadly left us,” an announcer said in the opening ceremony. “In particular, we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic Games.”
“One group still holds a strong place in all our memories, and stand for all of those we have lost at the Games: The members of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games Munich in 1972.”
The families of the 11 killed had long asked the International Olympic Committee for a minute’s silence at an opening ceremony but had been turned down until now.
“I welcome this important and historic moment,” Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted. “May their memory be blessed.”
Friday, July 23
11:45 p.m. Tennis superstar Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic flame.
Speculation that the four-time Grand Slam winner, the daughter of a Haitian man and a Japanese woman, could have a prominent role in the ceremony rose when Tokyo 2020 organizers requested that her opening match in the women’s singles event be pushed back by a day to Sunday.
Naomi Osaka of Japan lights the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony in Tokyo on July 23. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)
“Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life,” Osaka wrote in a tweet after the event. “I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness.”
Other torch bearers in the stadium include baseball legends Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima, who is helped on his walk by former MLB star Hideki Matsui; a doctor and nurse; Paralympian Wakako Tsuchida; and school students from the quake-devastated Tohoku region.
11:35 p.m. Jazz pianist Hiromi hammers the ivories as legendary Kabuki actor Ebizo Ichikawa performs on stage that represents Mount Fuji and the sun.
11:30 p.m. A very enjoyable performance of actors representing the sports at Tokyo 2020 in the style of the pictograms designed for the 1964 Tokyo Games.
11:18 p.m. Emperor Naruhito declares the Games open.
11:13 p.m. Time for speeches now. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto starts off by saying she hopes the Olympics will offer a moment of peace. She appears to be on verge of tears.
IOC President Thomas Bach says today is a moment of hope and expresses gratitude to the Japanese people for hosting the Games. He makes a special point of welcoming the refugee athletes.
10:50 p.m. In a stunning performance, 1,824 drones form a planet in the sky above the stadium, as a junior chorus sings John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Then, a video clip cuts to artists from all the world’s continents singing the classic sequentially.
10:45 p.m. Four Japanese athletes read out the Olympic oath together, in a similar way to how representative students speak in unison at a Japanese school ceremony.
10:35 p.m. The entrance of Japan, led by NBA star Rui Hachimura and wrestler Yui Susaki, round off the 206 groups of athletes.
From left, baseball players Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nakashima and Hideki Matsui pass the Olympic flame during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23. © Reuters
10:05 p.m. The orchestra is playing a medley of Japanese video game songs as the athletes come in. For the gamers out there, here’s the set list:
Dragon Quest – “Overture: Roto’s Theme”
Final Fantasy – “Victory Fanfare”
Tales of series – “Sorey’s Theme – The Shepherd”
Monster Hunter – “Proof of a Hero”
Kingdom Hearts – “Olympus Coliseum”
Chrono Trigger – “Frog’s Theme”
Ace Combat – “First Flight”
Tales of series – “Pomp and Majesty”
Monster Hunter – “Wind of Departure”
Chrono Trigger – “Robo’s Theme”
Sonic the Hedgehog – “Star Light Zone”
Winning Eleven (Pro Evolution Soccer) – “eFootball walk-on theme”
Final Fantasy – “MAIN THEME”
Phantasy Star Universe – “Guardians”
Kingdom Hearts – “Hero’s Fanfare”
Gradius (Nemesis) – “01 ACT I-1”
NieR – “Song of the Ancients”
SaGa series – “The Orchestral SaGa – Legend of Music”
Soulcalibur – “The Brave New Stage of History”
9:50 p.m. We are now roughly halfway through the athletes’ entrance. The countries are entering in the Japanese alphabetic order.
8:40 p.m. As is traditional, Greek athletes are the first to enter the stadium. They are all wearing masks, and keeping their distance from each other. They are followed by the Refugee team.
It should take about two hours for all 206 groups of athletes to enter the stadium. The music is an orchestral medley of songs from famous Japanese video games. The country names take the form of manga speech bubbles.
8:35 p.m. After a moment’s silence, drummers dressed as carpenters from Japan’s Edo period start tap dancing on and around wooden tables. The performance appears to be aimed at highlighting the use of lumber for the construction of several Olympic venues.
Banks of traditional paper lanterns are wheeled on and the tap dancing carpenters are joined by contemporary dancers. A wooden set of Olympic rings is hoisted in the center of the field.
Followed by more fireworks.
(Photo by Hirofumi Yamamoto)
8:20 p.m. Japanese Emperor Naruhito and IOC President Thomas Bach meet on stage, as the national flag of Japan is brought into the stadium by four athletes, a person with an impairment and a health care worker.
As members of Japan’s Self Defense Forces hold the Japanese flag, renown Japan singer Misia sings the national anthem.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach are seen during the opening ceremony. (Pool photo)
8:13 p.m. A short live action scene of athletes training alone, as many did due to social distancing requirements during the pandemic. The field is lit up with red and white lights showing the bonds between people.
8:05 p.m. The ceremony begins with a video showing the eight years since Tokyo won its bid, and views of street scenes around the Japanese capital. This is followed by a live-action style montage of athletes.
Most striking are the fireworks being launched from the roof of the stadium.
Fireworks explode as performers form the Olympic rings during the opening ceremony. (Photo by Takaki Kashiwabara)
8 p.m. The opening ceremony begins.
7 p.m. There is now just one hour until the start of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics. A lot of speculation is swirling over who will light the Olympic cauldron at the end of a ceremony that is expected to last about three and a half hours. It’s the most tightly kept secret of the evening.
4:49 p.m. Athletes are starting to feel the heat and humidity in Tokyo, which led to the marathon’s relocation to Hokkaido in the north. Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva briefly fainted during a qualifying round this afternoon. Medics also responded to overheated people who had gathered around the National Stadium to watch the Blue Impulse air squadron’s skywriting exhibition.
4:37 p.m. Indonesia’s National Olympic Committee plans to launch a bid to host the Summer Olympics in 2036 after losing out this week to a bid by Brisbane to hold the 2032 Games, the head of the committee says.
“We will not back down and will continue to fight for the 2036 Olympics,” Raja Sapta Oktohari, the chief of Indonesia’s committee, says in a statement.
4:15 p.m. Tokyo 2020 is considering appointing former president Yoshiro Mori as an honorary supreme adviser, Asahi Shimbun reports. Mori resigned in February over sexist remarks. Criticism has been growing over his potential appointment on social media.
3:41 p.m. Emperor Naruhito receives a courtesy visit from U.S. first lady Jill Biden and other foreign dignitaries at the Imperial Palace. It is the first time the emperor met with the first lady, who is leading the U.S. delegation to the opening ceremony.
3:18 p.m. Japan’s Naomi Osaka has had her opening match in the women’s singles event pushed back by a day to Sunday following a request from Tokyo 2020 organizers, the International Tennis Federation told Reuters.
No reason is given for the switch.
A woman suffering from heatstroke is cooled off after watching the Blue Impulse aerobatics performance in Tokyo on Friday. (Photo by Ken Kobayashi)
12:07 p.m. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga meets Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla at the State Guest House in Tokyo to seek faster delivery of coronavirus vaccine shipments as infections continue to rise. Bourla will attend the opening ceremony later today. Pfizer provided 40,000 doses of COVID vaccine to athletes and other people involved in the games.
11:29 a.m. Tokyo 2020 confirms 19 new Olympics-related COVID-19 infections, including three athletes and three members of the media, bringing the total to 106.
11 a.m. French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Tokyo. He is expected to discuss the issue of child abductions and Japan’s single custody system when he meets with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
An Olympic countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station, shown here on July 23, ticks down to the official opening of the Games. (Photo by Suzu Takahashi)
7:32 a.m. The firing of the artistic director of the opening ceremony over a decades-old skit about the Holocaust was just one of many scandals that have plagued the Games, highlighting the insular culture and the lack of social awareness among its organizers, writes Hisashi Tsutsui.
2:55 a.m. Guinea’s five athletes will participate in the Olympics after all, a statement from the West African nation’s sport ministry says, reversing the previous day’s decision to suspend its participation in the Games citing the pandemic.
2:18 a.m. Malicious software and websites have targeted both event organizers and ordinary fans.
To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.