Peiris the Lankan hope in swimming

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic Cauldron as Tokyo 2020 gets underway after symbolic Opening Ceremony

Athletes from around the world filled the Olympic Stadium with hope and expectation as the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 launched 16 days of sporting excellence

It’s official. The Games of the XXXII Olympiad are finally underway.

The fireworks that lit up the night sky high above the Olympic Stadium to mark the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were seen far beyond Japan’s capital.

Titled 'United by Emotion', the ceremony welcomed athletes from 206 nations to the Olympic Games in Tokyo - the second time the Japanese city has hosted the world’s biggest sporting event.

Reflecting on the key themes of the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Opening Ceremony celebrated inspiration and togetherness as well as Japan’s contributions to the world.

“Today is a moment of hope”, IOC President Thomas Bach said. “Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment because finally we are all here together.”

HASHIMOTO Seiko, the president of Tokyo 2020, offered her heartfelt gratitude to participating athletes and was “encouraged by your commitment in spite of all the difficulties you’ve had to endure”.

“You have always believed in yourselves, and you have made tremendous efforts in what you do,” she added. “You will treasure these moments for ever.”

“Now is the time to show the power of sport and of athletes like yourselves. I believe these strengths will bring hope to people and will unite the world.

“The world is waiting for you!”

It is the first time in history an IOC president and OCOG president are both Olympic medallists.

Following their speeches, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad were officially declared open by His Majesty the Emperor Naruhito.

Flags raised in the Olympic Stadium

After a year of uncertainty, Japan’s national flag was carried into the stadium by two-time Olympic weightlifting champion MIYAKE Yoshinobu and Olympic marathon champion TAKAHASHI Naoko. They were joined alongside by Youth Olympic Games curling medallist TABATA Momoha, Youth Olympic Games sports climbing champion DOHI Keita, percussionist SAKAI Hibiki as well as rescue worker ASABA Mizuki.

As the flag was raised by members of the Self Defense Forces, renowned singer MISIA delivered a powerful performance of the national anthem Kimi Ga Yo.

People around the world were then asked to remember those affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the Olympians who had passed away, including the Israeli athletes who lost their lives in Munich 1972.

Forming of the Olympic symbol

At the command of the Master Carpenters, a group of dancers began “woodworking”. As the rhythm of the tools became more musical, more dancers and acrobats joined the ensemble.

Giant wooden rings were carried in, guided by the light of paper lanterns. With the pull of a rope, the rings transformed into the Olympic symbol with fireworks exploding to form the five Olympic colours overhead.

Stronger Together

As is tradition, Greece, being home of the modern Olympics, entered the stadium first to begin the Parade of Athletes.

They were joined by the IOC Refugee Olympic Team led by swimmer Yusra Mardini and marathon runner Tachlowini Gabriyesos, before the remaining National Olympic Committees, all in their national uniforms, entered the stadium to an orchestral medley of music from Japan’s most famous video games, including Dragon Quest and Sonic the Hedgehog. The host nation’s athletes received a warm welcome as the last team to arrive.

With the national teams in the stadium, athletes, judges and coaches took the Olympic Oath.

Originally written by Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympic Games, the Olympic Oath has been updated for Tokyo 2020 with oath takers now swearing their commitment to inclusion, equality and non-discrimination.

There is a new motto, too. It is no longer “Faster, higher, stronger”, but also includes “together”.

This was followed by a group of children who placed boxes on the floor to form the Tokyo 2020 emblem and in the sky above, a fleet of drones swarmed together to form the same emblem before morphing into a spinning globe.

Just imagine

When John Lennon and Yoko Ono wrote the song Imagine in 1971, they probably did not know the impact that it would still have today.

The song imagines a world where everyone is equal, living in peaceful harmony. Pulling on heartstrings, the Opening Ceremony highlighted that no matter how different we may be, we are stronger together.

Reimagined by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer, and with lights dimmed inside the stadium, the song for Tokyo 2020 was performed to an emotive video montage of past Olympic Games by singing superstars John Legend and Keith Urban, alongside the Suginami Junior Chorus, Alejandro Sanz, Angélique Kidjo, Mike Knobloch and the drummers of TAIKOPROJECT.

The Olympic flag was carried into the stadium by KENTO Momota, Japan’s badminton world champion, Morocco’s triathlon champion Mehdi Essadiq, Olympic judo champion Paula Pareto from Argentina, Australia World Cup shooting champion Elena Galiabovitch, Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II, weightlifting champion from the IOC Refugee Olympic Team and Italy’s volleyball world silver medallist, Paola Ogechi Egonu.

Choruses from schools in Tokyo and Fukushima, scene of the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra to perform the Olympic Anthem as the Olympic flag was raised with doves, formed by projections and confetti-like cut-outs, appeared to fly around the National Stadium.

This symbolic release of doves was accompanied by Scottish singer Susan Boyle’s version of Wings To Fly, which was originally released in 1971 by a Japanese folk group.

As the lights came back on, venues and landmarks across Tokyo were illuminated in a high-tech sequence, including at the Kokugikan Arena, where Olympic boxing will be held, as well as at the famed Shibuya Crossing and Mount Takao.

To the sounds of Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, torchbearers carried the Olympic lantern into the stadium as performers held sunflowers aloft, making a path to the Olympic Cauldron that was based atop Japan’s iconic sacred symbol, “Mount Fuji”.

The honour of lighting the flame was passed by students from the prefectures hit during the 2011 Great Earthquake to Japan’s tennis superstar Naomi Osaka.

Cue the breathtaking firework display, which lit up the stadium and the athletes below. In the spirit of United by Emotion, these men and women, over the coming days, will bring fresh hope and encourage the world through the power of sport.