The Latest: Amid fireworks, Tokyo’s opening ceremony begins
Jul 23, 2021, 5:15 AM | Updated: 5:20 am
(AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
TOKYO, Japan — With a blaze of indigo and white fireworks lighting the night sky, the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has started.
It began with a single female athlete at the center of the stadium, kneeling. As she stood, the shadow behind her took the shape of a seedling, growing as she walked. A number of athletes were featured in a video that started with the moment Tokyo won the Olympic bid in 2013, then eventually to images of a world silenced by the pandemic.
Then came the fireworks, a 20-second blast of light — as if to say these Olympics have finally emerged from dark times.
The International Olympic Committee has released the order of the parade of nations for the opening ceremony and the names of all the flagbearers.
Greece, per Olympic tradition, enters first. The host nation always enters last, so it’ll likely take a couple hours or so before Japanese flagbearers Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura lead their national contingent into the stadium.
The Refugee Olympic team goes second in the parade. The others are slotted by their order in the Japanese alphabet, so Iceland and Ireland precede Azerbaijan, for example.
The IOC says 206 teams — 205 nations and the refugee team — will be taking part in the opening ceremony. Some nations will have their flags carried by volunteers. Other nations will have only one flagbearer. Most will have two, with one male and one female athlete chosen for the role.
The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is about to begin, 364 days behind the original schedule and with a very different feel than what was originally intended before the pandemic changed everything.
The Olympic Stadium is largely empty. The Tokyo 2020 souvenir store outside the front gates is closed. But that doesn’t mean fans have stayed away. Hundreds of fans gathered outside the gates and along the sidewalks of closed streets, waving at any person with an Olympic credential or any vehicle that went by with an Olympic logo.
Track and field events will be held in the stadium later in these games. The track itself is covered by a large black tarp for the opening ceremony and the infield is covered with a white tarp, one where graphics will be displayed over the course of the evening.
Some dignitaries and invited guests will be in the stadium seats, including U.S. first lady Jill Biden.
Six Polish swimmers have returned home before the Olympics even started, their dreams scuttled by the country mistakenly sending too many athletes to Tokyo.
Only 17 swimmers from Poland qualified for the Tokyo Games. The country’s swimming federation put 23 athletes on the plane to Japan, sparking outrage among those who were denied a chance to compete.
Two-time Olympian Alicja Tchorz was among those sent home. She griped on social media about all the sacrifices she had made to earn another trip to the Summer Games, only for it to result “in a total flop.”
The team sent out a statement demanding the resignation of Polish Swimming Federation president Paweł Słomiński. He issued his own statement expressing “regret, sadness and bitterness” about the athletes’ situation.
Słomiński said there was confusion over the qualifying rules and he was merely trying to “allow as many players and coaches as possible to take part” in the Olympics.
A bad weather forecast for Monday in Tokyo has prompted Olympic officials to move scheduled rowing events to Sunday.
Officials say rain, high winds and strong gusts could cause choppy and potentially unrowable conditions at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay.
The change affects men’s and women’s single and double sculls semifinals, and men’s and women’s fours repechage. The opening heats in the men’s and women’s eights also were moved from Sunday to Saturday.
Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown has surprisingly withdrawn from one of her best events because of a busy schedule at the Tokyo Olympics.
McKeown dropped the 200-meter individual medley, where she’s ranked No. 1 in the world and would have been a favorite to win a gold medal. She’ll focus instead on her two backstroke events and the relays.
“You have a rookie coming into the Olympics — it is a new experience and a big call,” Australian coach Rohan Taylor said.
The 200 IM semifinal heats are Monday night and the 100 back final is the next morning. Taylor says the timing “could be a challenge,” so the decision was made to drop the individual medley.
McKeown set a world record in the 100 back last month at the Australian trials, and the 20-year-old swimmer will be a gold medal favorite in that event.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says about 100 of the 613 U.S. athletes descending on Tokyo for the Olympics are unvaccinated.
Medical director Jonathan Finnoff says 567 of the American athletes had filled out their health histories as they prepared for the trip. He estimated 83% had replied they were vaccinated.
Finnoff says 83 percent is a substantial number and and the committee is quite happy with it.
Nationally, 56.3% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The International Olympic Committee estimates that around 85% of residents of the Olympic Village are vaccinated. That’s based that on what each country’s Olympic committee reports but is not an independently verified number.
South Korea’s An San has broken the women’s Olympic archery record with a score of 680 in the qualifying round on a hot and humid day.
Her mark topped the score of 673 set by Lina Herasymenko of Ukraine in 1996. An San’s teammates Jang Minhee (677) and Kang Chae Young (675) were second and third.
Russian Olympic Committee archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed in the intense heat and was treated by medical staff. The temperature soared above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).
In the men’s qualifying round, Kim Je Deok of South Korea posted the top mark of 688, with Brady Ellison of the United States second (682) and Oh Jin Hyek of South Korea third (681).
The Olympic debut of the mixed team event will be Saturday. The women’s individual competition is next Friday and the men’s individual event the following day.
About 50 protesters have gathered in Tokyo to demand the cancellation of the Olympics.
The opening ceremony is set for Friday evening local time.
The protesters gathered outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building chanting “no to the Olympics” and “save people’s lives.” They held up signs reading “cancel the Olympics.”
The Games, largely without spectators and opposed by much of the host nation, are going ahead a year later than planned.
A day earlier, Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases as worries grew of worsening infections during the Games. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population in Japan are much lower than in many other countries.
The opening ceremony will be held mostly without spectators to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will attend.
Jill Biden has held a virtual meet-and-greet with several U.S. athletes who will compete at the Tokyo Games.
The U.S. first lady is in Tokyo to support the athletes and attend the opening ceremony.
She spoke virtually with Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player and short track speed skater, and basketball player Sue Bird. Both will be flagbearers for the U.S. at the opening ceremony. She also spoke with Allison Schmitt, a four-time Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate.
Biden told the athletes that they’d given up a lot to be in Tokyo and relied on support from family and friends.
On Saturday, she’ll dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye.
She will host a U.S.-vs.-Mexico softball watch party at the U.S. Embassy for staff and their families, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in several events before leaving Tokyo.
South African race walker Lebogang Shange has been banned for four years for doping and will miss the Tokyo Olympics.
The former African champion was entered in the men’s 20-kilometer race on Aug. 5. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on the case in Tokyo.
The 30-year-old Shange tested positive for the anabolic steroid trenbolone and was provisionally suspended in December 2019. His ban will expire before the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The Swiss Olympic team says 400-meter hurdler Kariem Hussein has accepted a nine-month ban after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
The 2014 European champion was entered in the event at the Tokyo Games. The heats start next Friday. It is unclear if Hussein will be replaced in the 40-athlete lineup.
The Swiss Olympic body’s tribunal backdated the ban by one week from the time Hussein was provisionally suspended. That suspension had not been disclosed.
Tokyo Olympic organizers have reported 25 new COVID-19 cases. Three of them are athletes that were announced on Thursday.
There are 13 athletes among the 110 Olympic-accredited people that have tested positive in Japan since July 1.
Three media workers coming to Japan from abroad were included in the latest update.
Naomi Osaka’s opening match in the Olympic tennis tournament has been pushed back from Saturday to Sunday.
Organizers did not immediately provide a reason for the switch. They said only that the move came from the tournament referee.
Osaka was originally scheduled to play 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China in the very first contest of the Games on center court Saturday morning.
One reason for the move could be that Osaka might have a role in the opening ceremony Friday night. That wouldn’t leave her much time to rest before a Saturday morning match.
Osaka is returning to competition for the first time in nearly two months after she withdrew from the French Open following the first round to take a mental health break.
She is one of Japan’s top athletes.
The World Anti-Doping Agency says several Russian athletes have been kept away from the Tokyo Olympics because of doping suspicions based on evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory that was shut down in 2015.
WADA director general Olivier Niggli says it intervened with sports bodies to ensure those athletes — “not many, but there was a handful” — were not selected.
The team of 335 Russian athletes accredited for Tokyo is competing without a national flag and anthem as punishment for state tampering with the Moscow lab’s database. The team name is ROC, the acronym for Russian Olympic Committee, without the word “Russia.”
The identity ban for the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games was imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last December.
Giving WADA the database and samples from the lab was key to getting closure for the long-running Russian state-backed doping scandal.
WADA had a list of around 300 athletes under suspicion and gave evidence to Olympic sports bodies for possible disciplinary cases.
Niggli says “we cross-checked what we had from this long list” to ensure athletes were not selected for Tokyo.
Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva lost consciousness during a competition at the Tokyo Olympics in intense heat.
Coach Stanislav Popov says in comments via the Russian Olympic Committee that Gomboeva collapsed shortly after completing the qualifying round Friday.
Popov says “she couldn’t stand it, a whole day in the heat” and adds that humidity made the problem worse. Temperatures in Tokyo were above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit.)
The heat in Tokyo’s summer months already prompted organizers to move the marathons and race-walking events to the cooler city of Sapporo.
U.S. men’s water polo captain Jesse Smith will skip the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday after the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee limited how many players from his team could participate in the festivities.
Olympic water polo rosters consist of 13 players, and 12 are designated as available for each game. Smith said the team was told by the USOPC that it could have 12 credentialed athletes walk in the ceremony.
“We tried to keep our team together and change it with every constructive outlet, but no success, and now it’s time to refocus on getting game ready,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “So tonight I am sending my team out there to represent (the United States) proudly and soak up every moment. Let’s go boys!”
The 38-year-old Smith is playing in his fifth Olympics, matching Tony Azevedo for most Olympic teams for a U.S. water polo athlete. He was under consideration to serve as the male U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremony before that honor went to baseball player Eddy Alvarez.
A map on the Olympic website has been changed after Ukraine protested that it included a border across the Crimean Peninsula.
The map is part of a “Cheer Zone” feature tracking how fans around the world have backed different teams at the Tokyo Games.
Late Thursday the map had a black line across the top of Crimea in the same style as national borders. On Friday morning, there was no line across the peninsula. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine still considers it to be Ukrainian territory.
The Ukrainian embassy in Japan tells the Associated Press in an e-mail that “we have protested to the IOC and the map was corrected.”
Road cyclist Michal Schlegel is the fourth Czech athlete from three different sports to test positive before their competition at the Tokyo Games.
Schlegel tested positive at the team’s training base in Izu and will miss Saturday’s road race.
The Czech Olympic Committee said in a statement Friday that Schlegel is in isolation, and that Michael Kukrle and Zdenek Stybar will be its only two riders lining up at Musashinonomori Park for one of the first medal events of the Summer Games.
Czech beach volleyball players Marketa Slukova and Ondrej Perusic and table tennis player Pavel Sirucek also tested positive earlier this week. That has prompted the Czech Olympic team to investigate whether the outbreak is linked to its chartered flight to Tokyo.