SEOUL – Only about 900 people attended the opening ceremony.
The Olympic Games, postponed for a year due to the pandemic, officially began in Tokyo on Friday. The opening ceremony was held in a shortened, but still solemn format.
The event was planned at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo among tens of thousands of empty spectator seats: due to precautions related to COVID-19, only about 900 high-ranking officials were able to attend the ceremony.
The opening ceremony included traditional elements such as fireworks, drone flights, musical numbers, and a torch lighting ceremony.
Earlier, according to the organizers, it was agreed that the athletes will also pass through the stadium with the flags of their countries as part of the parade of nations, strictly observing the social distance.
“They will have to keep a distance of 1 meter, and if possible, 2 meters, and also constantly wear masks,” said Hidemasa Nakamura, an official representative of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
Many Japanese residents oppose the Games, fearing that they will worsen the already difficult epidemiological situation in the country.
On Thursday, about 2,000 new cases of COVID-19 infection were registered in Tokyo, which is a six-month high for the city, where a state of emergency is already in effect.
Visual zones are closed in the capital. Bars are recommended not to serve alcohol. The traditional Olympic relay race has been replaced by online torch lighting ceremonies.
At the moment, the virus has been detected in 87 people associated with the Games, including several athletes who had to say goodbye to their Olympic ambitions.
However, the organizers are trying to downplay concerns about a cluster outbreak of infections in the Olympic Village.
“There are no places where there would be no cases of infection. It’s impossible. Therefore, there will be cases. It is important to quickly identify cases and isolate those who are ill,” Nakamura said.
Earlier this year, the head of the organizing committee resigned after outrage over his comments about women.
This week, the director of the opening ceremony, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired after a video of a 1998 comedy sketch in which he jokes about the Holocaust was discovered.
Some major sponsors refused to support the Olympics.
Earlier this week, Toyota, one of Japan’s most recognizable brands, announced that it would not broadcast television commercials related to the Olympic Games in Japan, and its management would not attend the opening ceremony.
“As a person who has studied the political history of the Olympic Games, I can say that this Olympics is really taking place in an extremely tense environment,” said Jules Boykoff, author of several books about the Olympic Games.
Despite the contradictions, the organizers of the Games hope that after the start of the competition, the attention will shift to sports.