Olympic Opening Ceremony: Live updates and photos from Tokyo


Pedestrians pass by a huge exhibit showing the news of the dismissal of the opening ceremony director, Kentara Kobayashi.
Credit …Kimimasa Mayama / EPA, via Shutterstock

The opening ceremonies are an opportunity for the host country of the Olympics to show the world what it is all about. In extreme cases, a flawless spectacle, such as the one performed in Beijing in 2008, can help define global opinions about the country for years.

With Tokyo in a state of emergency and only 950 spectators filling the stadium built for 68,000, Japan was already under a lot of pressure to perform an unforgettable ceremony. But a series of high-profile scandals involving the event’s creative leadership revealed the ugly side of Japan that the country would have preferred to have been kept off the scene.

Creative event director, Hiroshi Sasaki, resigned in March after comparing one of the country ‘s most popular comedians to a pig. Last week, the composer of the ceremony Keigo Oyamada, also known as Cornelius, resigned after decades of interviews in which he vividly described the abuse of schoolmates with disabilities. His musical compositions will not appear at the ceremony.

And on Thursday, the Japan Olympic Committee fired another director, Kentara Kobayashi, after footage surfaced of him mocking the Holocaust as part of a 1990s comedy routine.

The show will continue despite Kobayashi’s resignation, organizers said. But a last-minute change seems to increase the pressure for perfect performance.

Michael Phelps carried the flag for the United States during the opening ceremony in Rio De Janeiro in 2016.
Credit …Doug Mills / The New York Times

Where is the United States marching in a parade of states? If this is in alphabetical order, why does Yemen come right after A? And why is Russia getting the top position?

The order of the state parade varies at almost all the Olympics. The order is determined by history, language and sometimes other factors.

The first to enter the stadium is always Greece, as the ancient Games originated there as far back as 776 BC. This year, the second team to enter will be a special team of refugee athletes compiled by the International Olympic Committee. The team goes by the name “IOC” and in the Japanese alphabet, which is alphabetically ahead of all other nations.

Entering right behind Greece is also a nice honor for refugee athletes who, after all, have faced significant challenges even coming to the Games. But the third team to enter generally does not provoke similar sentimental reactions among fans globally.

Russia has been banned from attending the Games because of its state-sponsored doping program. But Russian athletes can still compete, just not as “Russia” or behind the Russian flag. Instead, they will be known as “ROC”, for the Russian Olympic Committee, and it is the second place in alphabetical order.

The countries of the world follow on the basis of the Japanese alphabet. For English speakers, this will mean adaptation. Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Uruguay are close to the front at these Games. And they are immediately followed by Britain, the British Virgin Islands, and then a bunch of nations that start with the letter E.

So when does the United States arrive? Alphabetical uncertainties mean they will be the third last team to arrive, just ahead of France.

In the end it’s always the home team, and for these Games it’s Japan. Unfortunately, the usual roar of the home crowd will disappear when the athletes of the host country come.

The Olympic Stadium seen from the observatory at the top of the commercial building.
Credit …Hiroko Masuike / The New York Times

The opening ceremony of what is being sold as the 2020 Olympics is finally taking place on Friday night (Friday morning US time) – a year late.

In many ways, the event at Tokyo Olympic Stadium will resemble the opening ceremony of the past.

But the most significant difference is that just like at almost all other Olympic events, there will be no fans. Approximately 1,000 dignitaries and members of the news media will be there to witness the event live due to the strict restrictions of the pandemic, at a stadium intended for tens of thousands of people.

As for the show, the organizers, as always, guide mom about which J-pop bands or crossover opera singers will perform. But history gives us a pretty good idea of ​​a few things we’ll see.

  • There will be talk, mostly about the ideals of the Olympics.

  • Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, will introduce himself as a former gold medalist. Probably more than once.

  • A combination of singers, dancers, mimes and puppeteers will celebrate the history and culture of Japan.

  • The spectacle is perhaps a little less spectacular than usual. “Opening ceremonies in the past have been a big celebration, spectacular,” said Takayuki Hioki, executive producer of the games ceremonies. “Instead of these, we created something with a strong message that will resonate with the audience. It’s more about emotional connection than excitement. “

  • There will be a parade of nations and it will be immeasurably long.

  • The Olympic torch will arrive, and someone will light the boiler. This is a closely guarded secret of the ceremony, but The New York Times recorded well the prediction of lighters in the cauldron. This year we offered 10 candidates, led by four-time gold medalist Kaori Icho. (Early Bird Prediction Bonus: For the 2024 Games in Paris, Teddy Riner; 2028 in Los Angeles, Magic Johnson; 2032 in Brisbane, Australia, Ian Thorpe.)

From now on, the entire event is scheduled for three and a half hours, starting at 8pm Japanese time, at 7am Eastern Time, at 4am in the Pacific. But past ceremonies have almost always gone beyond the allotted time.

Japanese residents and tourists flock to a small park ahead of the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Credit …James Hill for The New York Times

A lesson in history, a hit parade, the deployment of mass forces, nationalist self-determination, tourism advertising, the author’s fantasy, kitsch in the stadium – the opening ceremonies contain it all at once. In this century, they are set primarily for cameras that broadcast them around the world and neatly written for a foreign audience. But they still capture the image of themselves that host countries want to show – or, at least, what they hope to show.

The 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea insisted on peace and sought to evoke children’s amazement and respect for nature; at the opening ceremony he presented traditional Korean sounds and preserved his internationally popular K-pop stars for closing. The opening of Rio de Janeiro in 2016 presented Brazil as a bastion of diversity – depicting indigenous people and waves of conquest, slavery, immigration and integration – with a carnival at its heart; the percussionist core of its 12 traditional samba schools paraded in costumes at the highlight of the show.

London 2012, directed by Danny Boyle (“Millionaire Without Stupidity”), eccentrically recorded economic and cultural upheavals in Britain: from green and pleasant pastoralism to gloomy industrial capitalist exploitation to strong pluralism, with a long-standing penchant for royal pomp and film fantasies like James Bond and Mary Poppins. Beijing had a CGI spectacle in 2008 (directed by Zhang Yimou) drawing on historical achievements and traditional Chinese art – scroll painting, calligraphy, porcelain – and deploying hundreds of dancers and musicians arranged in giant formations, moving in unison. Athens, 2004 went back to archeology and mythology; Bjork also performed its eco-friendly ”Oceania. “

The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic for a year and will now be presented to a minimum number of live spectators due to the pandemic. Its turmoil continues until the opening ceremony.

The team that put together the show intended for 2020 dissipated. This week Keigo Oyamada, who records as Cornelius and who wrote the music that was supposed to start the ceremony, dropped out after Interviews from the 1990s have emerged where he boasted of brutally harassing a school friend with a disability – a very bad look for an organization that also represents the Paralympic Games. And on July 22, the day before the ceremony, its director, a comedian Kentaro Kobayashi has been removed because of past jokes about the Holocaust.

Performers for this year’s opening ceremony have not been announced in advance, although Japanese pop is likely to perform, which has found listeners around the world. How will 21st century Japan as a nation and culture show itself to the world? Will it be kotos and kimono, Kabuki and Bunraku, or anime, video games and J-pop? All that and more? We will see.

Credit …Ethan Miller / Getty Images
Credit …Veasey Conway for The New York Times

You may notice two flag bearers leading each state to the opening ceremony.

This is thanks to a change in the rules and a new recommendation from the International Olympic Committee that each participating country nominate one man and one woman for that honor. The move is part of the IOC’s efforts for gender equality and a high-profile way to show its commitment. (But it’s not that simple.)

The parade of nations during the opening ceremony is one of the most watched and favorite parts of the Olympic Games, and the proclamation of the flag bearer is the national pride of athletes.

For some nations, including China and Mongolia, a woman will be a flag bearer for the first time. China has nominated Zhu Ting, captain of its women’s volleyball team. Mongolia will also have its first flag bearer, Khulan Onolbaatar, a three-on-three basketball star.

The United States will be led to the stadium by basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez, who in 2014 was silver in speed skating.

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