Tokyo Olympics: The Games begin as tennis star Naomi Osaka lights cauldron at opening ceremony

Tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics to mark the official start of this year’s delayed Games.

The Japanese grand-slam winner carried the Olympic torch up the steps of the cauldron sat atop a peak inspired by Mount Fiji, with a sphere shaped like a flower with its petals open.

Earlier, athletes bearing the flags of their respective nations paraded into Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium with their delegations.

Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Sbihi led Team GB’s 22 athletes out, the flagbearers fist-bumping as they waved the Union Jack.

Greece came in first as per tradition, followed by the Refugee Olympic team – while the host nation entered last.

The other 204 delegations were put in the order of the Japanese alphabet – so Iceland and Ireland preceded Azerbaijan.

An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games served as the soundtrack to the parade – including the Final Fantasy series’ theme and “Victory Fanfare,” the song that plays when a player wins an encounter.

But there were also signs of the opposition to the Olympics being staged amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Outside the stadium, protesters faced off with police as they held up signs saying “Stop the Olympics – No Olympics” and “Cancel the Olympics! Save lives!”.

Demonstrators have criticised the Japanese government for what some say is prioritising the Olympics over the nation’s health and have called for the Games to be abandoned.

Close to the near-empty stadium, protesters were also seen holding up banners reading “Olympics kill the poor” and chanting “Cancel the Olympics”.

The Games, which are being held largely without spectators and are opposed by much of the host nation, are going ahead a year later than planned due to the COVID pandemic.

Public opinion polls show most Japanese residents are against the decision to hold the world sporting event in the capital, which is under a coronavirus state of emergency.

The event started with a performer seeming to morph from a seed into a plant through the use of overhead projections.

A compilation video then showed Japan’s path to the Games since its selection as the host country in 2013 – with a notable focus on the impact of COVID-19.

Athletes were seen training alone in domestic spaces as they prepared for the Games.

A countdown kicked off fireworks above the stadium, which turned indigo and blue in the shape of a fan – an auspicious symbol in Japanese culture.

Lone performers dressed as athletes were shown exercising on equipment as projections of lines and circles linked them to each other, a nod to the way the internet has connected people during the pandemic.

Dancers performed using pieces of red elastic ropes binding them together.

The Japanese flag was carried into the stadium by athletes and a paramedic, leading up to a representation of Mount Fuji.

Japan’s national anthem was sung and a moment of silence was held to remember “friends and loved ones no longer with us”, particularly those lost to the pandemic.

There was also specific mention of Israeli Olympic team members who were killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The families of the 11 victims had long asked the International Olympic Committee to hold a minute’s silence at a Games opening ceremony, but were previously unsuccessful.

Guided by the light of many paper lanterns, giant wooden rings were carried onto the field on a platform.

The pull of a rope transformed them into the Olympic symbol.

The performance of putting the rings together began with the “Kiyari Uta,” a traditional work song that has been sung for centuries by labourers to synchronise their efforts.

The rings were made from trees grown from seeds brought by international athletes in 1964, the last time Tokyo hosted the Games.

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus received the Olympic Laurel for his pioneering work as a micro-lender hailed for cutting poverty across the globe.

After the parade, performers rearranged 45 rectangular boxes in different colours to form the Tokyo 2020 emblem when seen from above.

The shimmering light of 1,800 drones formed the same emblem in the sky.

Their movement formed a globe above the stadium, after which John Lennon’s Imagine was performed by John Legend, Keith Urban and others.

The Games were delayed by a year and spectators were banned two weeks ago over concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

Approximately 1,000 dignitaries and news media members are present to witness the event live in a stadium designed to host thousands of people.

Only 15 global leaders are in attendance, along with Japanese Emperor Naruhito and US First Lady Jill Biden.

(c) Sky News 2021: Tokyo Olympics: The Games begin as tennis star Naomi Osaka lights cauldron at opening ceremony

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