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Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: A show without an audience as protesters gather

Jul 23, 2021


Friday’s Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony was like no other. The video above shows the firework celebration, as well as, the protests taking place outside of the arena during the ceremony. The photographs below show some of the highlights of the event.

The ceremony of the pandemic-delayed Games was held without spectators to help stop the spread of coronavirus infections. Spectators have been banned from all venues in the Tokyo area with limited audiences allowed at a few outlying sites.

Mostly masked athletes waved enthusiastically to thousands of empty seats. Some athletes marched socially distanced, while others clustered in ways utterly contrary to organizers’ hopes. Only dignitaries and invited guests were in attendance, including U.S. first lady Jill Biden.

Flagbearers Sue Bird of the United States and Eddy Alvarez of the United States lead their contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

First Lady Jill Biden wearing a protective face mask reacts alongside France’s President Emmanuel Macron wearing a protective face mask as Prince Albert II of Monaco looks through binoculars wearing a protective face mask during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

The Olympic cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Protesters faced off with police outside the national stadium. Police pushed back demonstrators trying to get near the venue for the start of the games. The protesters held up signs reading “Stop the Olympics – No Olympics” and “Cancel the Olympics! Save lives!”

Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s government faces criticism for prioritizing the Olympics despite public health concerns amid a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

Despite the anger seen from many Tokyo residents, organizers hope the excitement of the Game would offset the opposition. “Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined,” IOC President Thomas Bach said. “But let us cherish this moment because finally we are all here together.” Bach went on to say “This feeling of togetherness — this is the light at the end of the dark tunnel of the pandemic.”

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many other countries, logging about 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began.

However, only about 23 percent of Japan’s population of more than 120 million has been fully vaccinated. That number has picked up since May, but is still far short of where the government had hoped to be before the Olympics.

In addition, infections have been surging, with Tokyo hitting a six-month high of 1,979 daily cases on Thursday.

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