Tokyo Olympics: Naomi Osaka Photograph:( Reuters )
Naomi Osaka the Olympic cauldron to mark the formal start of Tokyo 2020, in an opening ceremony shorn of glitz.
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka on Friday lit the Olympic cauldron to mark the formal start of Tokyo 2020, in an opening ceremony shorn of glitz and overshadowed by a pandemic but celebrated as a moment of global hope.
Organizers also paid tribute to medical workers as athletes from across the world paraded into an almost empty stadium, their smiles hidden behind masks for the first time.
Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, the ceremony was low-key, with fewer than 1,000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules, and signs calling on spectators to "be quiet around the venue."
"With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties," said the President of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto.
The ceremony climaxed with a fusion of traditional kabuki theatre - with its elaborate makeup and costumes - and a jazz piano improvisation, on a stage topped with the cauldron for the Olympic flame.
After being passed from baseball legends to children, the torch was handed to Osaka, who walked to the base of the stage, which split open to reveal a set of stairs as the cauldron unfolded like a flower.
She then climbed the stairs and lit the cauldron as fireworks briefly illuminated the sky.
At the parade, most countries were represented by both male and female flagbearers in an Olympic first, but not everybody took pandemic measures. Teams from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the Pakistan flagbearers paraded maskless in contrast to protocol and the majority of other athletes.
Members of the Canada delegation wore patches in the colour of the rainbow, the symbol of the LGBT community, on their jackets. U.S. first lady Jill Biden clapped the Americans as did France President Emmanuel Macron for the French team.
The Olympic oath, recited by the athletes at the end of the parade, has been updated for the Tokyo Games, with athletes swearing their commitment to inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination for the first time at the Olympics.