The World Awaits Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Thrills, Frills

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  • Emperor Naruhito to open games in a largely empty stadium 

BY VICTOR OSOWOCHI – After a year-long delay, the Tokyo Olympics is finally happening today with the opening ceremony holding inside the newly built National Stadium in Tokyo.

This year’s Games will take place in a largely empty stadium in Tokyo starting at 8 p.m. local time at the National Stadium in Tokyo. That is noon in London; 7 a.m in New York; and 4 a.m in San Francisco.

Officials also confirmed that the ceremony is scheduled to last for about three and a half hours (3½) hours.

Though details about the opening ceremony content remain largely under wraps, it is expected to have more of a somber, thankful note than other recent ceremonies, with COVID-19 likely to be a major theme.

This is all meant to fit the theme “Moving Forward”, with Tokyo 2020 officials desirous to “Reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games.”

An official with knowledge of the planning said Emperor Naruhito is likely to attend the opening ceremony and declare the start of the games while other members of the imperial family will likely not attend due to a restriction on spectators at Olympics venues.

One of the Games officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said authorities are upbeat about arrangements for the Emperor’s attendance at the ceremony, adding that he is also prepared to meet with visiting foreign dignitaries at the Imperial Palace.

Before the athletes begin competing for podium positions and dream of shattering records, they are all set for the Games’ largest spectacle, which is the opening ceremony.

On Friday night, Tokyo will be consumed by pageantry and glamor with over 200 nations and their athletes descending upon the Olympic Stadium to watch the torch lighting.

Evidently, this ceremony will be different with international spectators as well as local fans banned from the Games months ago, and Japan in a state of emergency. Organizers said Thursday that the crowd on hand will be limited to about 950 people, including VIPs, government officials, and foreign dignitaries.

American First Lady Jill Biden will also be there as Head of the U.S delegation, with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee indicating that about 230 of its athletes are set to march during the opening ceremony.

This is as the Games organizers have announced the dismissal of the Opening Ceremony Director after he allegedly made light of the Holocaust in a comedy routine.

What to expect from the opening ceremony?

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad begins today, Friday, July 23 with the final curtains to be drawn on Sunday, August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

The traditional highlight is the parade of nations with athletes from each country entering the stadium, often wearing colourful or characteristic dresses. One memorable example in 2016 was the Tongan flag bearer, who marched shirtless in a skirt with his torso greased.

Past opening ceremonies have also celebrated the host nation’s culture and Japanese opening ceremonies have generally been used in celebrating the nation’s ancient history. This year, there may be a more modern approach.

Previous Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed up as Mario during the handover at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony. Many expect another appearance by the mascot as the opening ceremony may dedicate itself to Japan’s influence on modern technology and pop culture.

Though the stadium will lack fans, there will not be artificial noise pumped in. Officials will instead use more audio equipment to try and catch more natural sounds.

There will still be flag bearers, and this year’s order of nations appearing will diverge from what has been done in the past. Greece traditionally leads the procession and the other nations follow in alphabetical order.

This year, the parade will honor host countries for the upcoming Games so France and then the United States will march in before Japan.

Also, many teams will walk in with two flag bearers; one male and one female. The IOC Executive Board changed protocol guidelines to “send a strong message of inclusive and gender-equal Olympic Games where women and men have equal prominence.”

Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus will be awarded the Olympic Laurel. Awarding the laurel began in Rio 2016 to honor “an outstanding individual for their achievements in education, culture, development, and peace through sport.”

Watching the opening ceremony live

In the U.S., NBC is televising the opening ceremony live, with coverage beginning at 6:55 a.m Eastern time; and 3:55 a.m Pacific time. The network will show the ceremony again in a prime-time broadcast beginning at 7:30 p.m Eastern time.

Viewers in the United States can also live stream the ceremony on the NBC Sports app and at NBCOlympics.com. – With agency reports

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