A year later than scheduled, Tokyo 2020 officially began with an understated and respectful opening ceremony on Friday.
The event at the main stadium took place with no general spectators and a much-reduced parade of athletes.
Great Britain were represented by just 22 of their 375-strong squad. Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Sbihi were the flag-bearers who led them out.
There were significantly smaller delegations from all the big nations while those otherwise in attendance were media, volunteers and around 1,000 VIPs, including Emperor Naruhito of Japan.
There were fireworks and performers while there was also the spectacular sight of 1,824 lit drones forming a globe in the night sky. But the overall tone was markedly more low key than at past Games with video montages referencing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Olympic cauldron was lit by Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, the four-time grand slam tournament winner and current world number two. There had been speculation the 23-year-old, one of the host nation’s best medal hopes, would be involved in the ceremony after her first-round match was removed from Saturday’s schedule.
A ring of steel was erected around the stadium but a protest against the Games – which a sizeable proportion of the Japanese population remain against – did take place within earshot nearby.
Action under way
Most eyes may have been on the opening ceremony but some sport has already begun.
In the rowing, Irish world champion Sanita Puspure and Great Britain’s Vicky Thornley both made strong starts to their campaigns in the women’s single sculls by winning their respective heats.
Puspure triumphed at the Sea Forest Waterway with more than eight seconds to spare to cruise through to the quarter-finals. Thornley, the first British female single sculler to gain Olympic selection for 20 years, finished nearly three seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Jeannine Gmelin.
British trio Sarah Bettles, Bryony Pitman and Naomi Folkard were in action in the individual women’s archery ranking round, as were compatriots Patrick Huston, James Woodgate and Tom Hill in the men’s equivalent. Bettles was the best-placed Briton on Friday, finishing 15th.
Picture of the day
Social media moment
A member of the Eritrea team had a lie down during the four-hour opening ceremony.
Hang in there! ☕️
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 23, 2021
The number of positive cases affecting individuals with Olympic accreditations rose by 19 on the day of the opening ceremony, taking the number who have tested positive since July 1 past the hundred mark. Three of the latest to test positive were athletes, one of whom was residing in the Olympic Village. One was an athlete from the Netherlands while there were two more cases confirmed by the Czech Republic, taking the number of positives in the Czech camp alone to six.
Quarantine release hopes fade
The British Olympic Association’s bid to spring six affected athletes out of enforced quarantine at their training base in Yokohama is falling on deaf ears, chairman Hugh Robertson has conceded.
The six, all members of the Team GB athletics squad, are midway through their two-week isolation after being informed last week that they were considered close contacts of an individual who tested positive following their flight into Japan.
The affected athletes are allowed out in order to train alongside their team-mates at the Team GB base and have been promised their participation in the Games itself will not be compromised provided they continue to submit negative PCR tests.
But they must otherwise remain inside their single-occupancy rooms.
Robertson said: “We are working on it on an hourly basis, but I would be lying if I said we were making progress.”
Saturday TV Highlights
Highlights on day one include the men’s cycling road race (0300-1000), Great Britain v hosts Japan in the women’s football tournament (1130) and qualification for the men’s artistic gymnastics (0200-1400). The swimming competitions also begin with heats.
General TV coverage of various sports is provided throughout the day by the BBC. Their live programmes are 0010-1340 (BBC One), 1340-1355 (BBC Two) and 1355-1800 (BBC One). There is also 24-hour coverage on the red button.
More specifically, Eurosport will showing: Basketball 0600, 0950, 1250 (Eurosport 2); Beach volleyball 0055, 0750, 1150 (Eurosport 2); Boxing 1030, 0420 Sun (Eurosport 1); Cycling, men’s road race 0245 (Eurosport 1), women’s road race 0445 Sun (Eurosport 1); Gymnastics 0200, 0350 (Eurosport 2), Judo 0340 Sun (Eurosport 2); Rowing 0030 Sat, 0050 Sun (Eurosport 1), Shooting 0240 (Eurosport 2), Skateboarding 0055 Sun, 0420 Sun (Eurosport 2), Volleyball 1345 (Eurosport 1), Swimming 1050 Sat, 0220 Sun (Eurosport 1).