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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

No fans, fewer athletes: Tokyo Olympics set for unusual opening ceremony

Equally unusual will be the start of one of the strangest Olympics in history when the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony takes place on Friday in front of thousands of empty seats.

Only 1,000 dignitaries will be present at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium for the traditional ceremony, which is usually a time of celebration for the host country.

This time, after a year-long pandemic delay, the Japanese public is largely locked in and distrustful of the Games, fearing an influx of infections from foreign visitors.

Celebrations have been scaled back to quell crowds with the Parade of Nations, a centerpiece of the show featuring smiling and waving athletes, reduced dramatically.

Glimpses of the rehearsal witnessed by Tokyo residents suggest a high-tech show, including a drone display.

Emperor Naruhito of Japan will head into the VIP, along with world leaders and senior figures including US First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Tokyo 2020 has been tough in the making and the opening ceremony is no exception, with a series of dismissals of people associated with the show.

The ceremony’s director, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired on the eve of the show for referencing the Holocaust in a 1998 comedy sketch.

It came three days after he stepped down following outrage over one of the musician’s previous interviews for the festival, in which he described abusing disabled classmates.

Hiroshi Sasaki, the creative director for the opening and closing ceremonies, also resigned in March after suggesting a plus-size female comedian appeared as the pig.

The centerpiece of the ceremony is the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, which will conclude a torturous torch relay that began 16 months ago and has run into many obstacles.

After the flame was lit in a spectator-free ceremony at Olympia, Greece, in March last year, the Greek section of the relay was pulled down when a crowd of Hollywood actor Gerard Butler thronged Sparta.

The flame had barely subsided in Japan when the Olympics were postponed and was displayed nationwide until the relay resumed this March.

However, about half of the relay was taken off public roads or otherwise over coronavirus concerns, and fans were kept away when it finally arrived in Tokyo this month.

Virus worries are high in Japan, with a state of emergency in Tokyo as the Olympics finally begin.

Cases in the capital reached 1,832 on Wednesday – the highest since January. According to the Kyodo news agency, experts predict that number will rise to 2,600 by early August.

Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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