The fiery red Tokyo Tower. The Rainbow Bridge illuminated in the Japanese night. The Olympic Stadium almost empty but full of excitement. The pandemic that postponed (and put at risk) Tokyo 2020 was not an impediment for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to start – one year later – its XXXII Olympic Games. And the opening ceremony did not forget that coronavirus that paralyzed the world.
After remembering with a germinating seed that the work towards Tokyo 2020 began seven years earlier, the celebration of the New Year that would bring back the Olympic Games to Japan after those of 1964 was transformed into the hopelessness of streets desolate by covid-19, that turned off the countdown. However, none of this made it impossible for the athletes to keep the dream alive and that is why the organizers recognized them with images of their home workouts from lockdowns around the world last year.
Nor did Tokyo forget Arisa tsubata, the boxer who quit her job as a nurse in January to focus on a pre-Olympian who could qualify for the Olympics. Although the suspension of that event deprived her of being an athlete, the organization awarded her with an outstanding participation in the first segment of the ceremony, dedicated to the efforts of athletes to become strong in adversity and reconnect to make the Olympic dream possible.
The coronavirus that marked the planet reappeared after the formal presentations and the Japan anthem, with an exciting minute of silence to remember the victims of the pandemic and also all those who died during Olympic events.
The wooden rings of Tokyo 2020, with the memory of Tokyo 1964. Photo REUTERS / Fabrizio Bensch
Then it did give way to the party, which began by touching the most intimate fibers of Japanese culture and tradition. Also the legacy of that 1964 Game of Japanese reconstruction, when athletes from all over the world brought tree seeds that were planted in the country and whose wood now allowed to create the five Olympic rings of four meters in diameter that burst into the Olympic Stadium covered by the typical Japanese panels.
With the symbol of the Olympic Games present, only the athletes were missing in an extensive parade that included the particularity of the chinstraps and that, as tradition marks, Greece began, which continued refugee athletes represented with the Olympic flag and that in ninth place -by the Japanese alphabet- it located Argentina, with the Olympic champions in Rio Cecilia Carranza Saroli and Santiago Lange as standard bearers.
The group that represented the 188 athletes broke with protocol and thrilled the other side of the planet. First, when Carranza and Lange waved the flag for several seconds before starting the walk and then when those behind them sang and jumped to the rhythm of “Every day I love you more, I’m Argentine, it’s a feeling, I can’t stop”. “Braian Toledo should be with us”, was the memory of the standard bearer of the athlete who died on February 27, 2020 in a road accident.
The Argentine party with the flag bearers and the delegation at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Photo REUTERS / Marko Djurica
Despite the fact that each Olympic National Committee could only count on a reduced portion of its delegations in the Olympic Stadium, the parade that was closed by France – the next organizer – and Japan lasted more than an hour, during which time songs from some of the Most popular video games from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.
With the athletes on the perimeter of the stage and after the Olympic oath, the party continued with the dance of Japanese boys and girls, who formed the symbol of Tokyo 2020 with giant blocks, which in turn was replicated in the sky with 1824 drones, which then regrouped to form the globe while those kids began to interpret the theme Imagineby John Lennon, completed in a video by artists John Legend, Alejandro Sanz, Keith Urban and Angelique Kidjo.
“It is time to show the power of sport. I am confident that this strength will unite people around the world,” remarked Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Organizing Committee, also insisted on by her IOC counterpart, Thomas Bach. “Finally, we are all here. This is the unifying power of sport, this is a message of solidarity, peace and resilience“said the German, the main promoter for Tokyo 2020 to take place despite the pandemic.
Emperor Naruhito, then, declared the Olympic Games open and the fireworks lit up the sky again, when six athletes entered the Olympic flag and the emotion seized the Argentines because the champion in Rio Paula Pareto was the representative of the American continent.
The ingenuity and creativity long awaited in Tokyo came to an end. First, with the 50 Tokyo 2020 pictograms that three mimes performed in a comedy show that woke up viewers after three and a half hours of ceremony. Later, when an actor pretended to be responsible for a control capable of turning on all the lights in the city and from where, coincidentally, the switch that turned on the cauldron was located.
After a relay that included a doctor and a nurse as representatives of health workers who fought from the front lines in the pandemic, tennis player Naomi Osaka was in charge of lighting the Olympic flame.
The former WTA No. 1 climbed the ladder to a flower structure that carried the cauldron. With the stadium illuminated by its light, after 3 hours and 50 minutes the fireworks put an end to the opening of Tokyo 2020 + 1.