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They didn’t bother to change the year in its name and there was not many fireworks to mark the start of the competition, yet the Olympics opening ceremony celebrated hope amid adversity.
“Tokyo 2020” was seen on hashtags, banners, T-shirts and flags during the opening of the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, last Friday, July 23, 2021. The Olympics was originally scheduled on the same day last year but was postponed because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. Organizers decided to keep the name “Tokyo 2020” or the 2020 Olympics.
It was through perseverance or plain stubbornness that the games finally opened despite a recent hike in Covid-19 cases in Tokyo. There was a ban on spectators on all games as Japan issued a state of emergency from early July to Aug. 22. The Olympics run from July 23 to August 8.
The opening ceremony for “Tokyo 2020” was unlike past celebrations of the Olympics. The fireworks display ran for only a few minutes and was limited to the top of the national stadium unlike the grand show in the 2012 opening in London. What was new in the Tokyo event was the light display by 1,824 drones that formed themselves into a replica of the globe.
The pictogram performance of two to three actors at the arena used few props, recycled some, was fast-paced and fun to watch. It was so low-tech, especially for a country like Japan but it presented the message clearly and with impact. The choreography in the human pictogram of the 50 sports events was creative and spectacular.
The stadium could seat over 60,000 but less than a thousand were present. It was genius to paint the seats in different colors so, from afar, it appeared like there were people in them.
What confused many was the order in which countries marched in as organizers used the Japanese alphabet and not the English alphabet of a, b, c, d, etc. According to news reports that clarified it for those who got confused, the Japanese order follows Japanese pronunciation syllable by syllable: a, i, u, e, o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko and so on through the list of consonants paired with the five vowels. Countries were also listed based on their Japanese pronunciation. The Philippines was number 149 in the parade order after Fiji and before Finland.
While simple and less colorful than past Olympics ceremonies, the “Tokyo 2020” opening was full of emotions that began with a minute of silence for the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian terrorists in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
In the torch run, a doctor and a nurse ran bearing the flame as part of a relay that also included a disabled athlete, a Japanese baseball icon and young runners.
These images gave me the goosebumps and made the low-key ceremony among the best celebrations of humanity in this time of adversity. The message to the world: We’re alive!