After 364 days since its supposed opening, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad finally commenced in Tokyo in the face of the current global pandemic brought by the COVID-19 virus.
In more than a three-hour spectacle, the 19-day competition officially opened in the new Olympic Stadium with Japanese Emperor Naruhito formally declaring the games open, Friday evening.
The ceremony was filled with drama as it started with a video on how the pandemic changed the landscape of sports and using the common experience to move forward. A moment of silence was given for the victims of the pandemic and also to some who died in Games time.
The second Olympic Laurel award was then bestowed to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus, the man known as the “banker for the poor.”
Afterward, the athletes from the 206 delegations, including the Refugee Olympic Team, entered the stadium with the Philippines entering 147th led for the first time by two athletes in boxer Eumir Marcial and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe.
Joining Marcial and Watanabe were chef de mission Nonong Araneta and coaches Carlos Padilla (taekwondo) Nolito Velasco (boxing) and Daniel Bautista (skateboarding), as well as Philippine Swimming Inc. president Lani Velasco and Gymnastics Association of the Philippines head Cynthia Carrion-Norton.
Most countries opted to have both a male and female athlete as flag-bearers to follow the International Olympic Committee’s thrust of gender equality and inclusion.
The next two Olympic host nations — the United States and France — preceded the entry of current host nation Japan, in light of another innovation in the traditional Parade of Nations.
Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Olympic Games Organizing Committee, and Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, delivered their messages to the athletes and to the world, which both centered on the power of sports to unify people amidst these trying times.
Hashimoto opened her speech with gratitude to every people of Japan especially the medical front-liners who also helped one way or another to have the Games proceed.
“To the athletes, thank you for gathering in this stage. We have been encouraged by your commitment despite the challenges you have to endure,” the 1992 Albertville bronze medalist said in Japanese.
“We will do everything in our power to make these Games a source of pride for generations to come.”
Long-time IOC head Bach said, “The pandemic forced us to be apart. To keep our distance from each other. To stay away even from our loved ones. This separation made this tunnel so dark.
“But today, wherever in the world you may be, we are united in sharing this moment together. The Olympic flame makes this light shine brighter.”
The newly-installed Emperor of Japan, Emperor Naruhito, then declared the Games open.
In a first in the history of the Games and following the history of sports pictograms that started in the city’s first hosting in 1964, the so-called kinetic pictograms took centerstage presenting the 50 sports disciplines.
The most-anticipated part of the program, the lighting of the Olympic Flame culminated the years of the relay as athletes both young and old, and even medical frontliners passed on the torch.
Japanese tennis star and Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka ignited the cauldron after scaling a model of the world-famous Mt. Fuji, lighting the way not just for the two-week competition but as a symbol of hope in these hard times.