Olympics 2021 Opening Ceremony: Live Updates as the Games Begin

Olympics 2021 Opening Ceremony: Live Updates as the Games Begin

Olympics 2021 Opening Ceremony: Live Updates as the Games Begin

Current time in Tokyo: July 23, 11:26 p.m.

As fireworks light the night sky, the dark of the Olympic Stadium is illuminated by hundreds of cellphones from athletes photographing the pyrotechnics.

“The pandemic forced us to keep apart, to keep our distance from each other,” Thomas Bach says. “But today, wherever in the world you may be, we are united in sharing this moment together.”

I’ve seen Bach speak a few times at these things, and I have never seen him try to rise to an occasion as he is trying to rise to this one. “This Olympics experience makes all of us very humble,” he says, “because we feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of an event that unites the world.” At a time when the only thing uniting the world appears to be a global pandemic, it is reassuring to hear someone speak, at least, to something beyond that.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

In 1964, the emperor’s grandfather, Hirohito, opened the Tokyo Olympics. Now Naruhito, who was enthroned in 2019 after his father abdicated, is opening the Games, followed by a fireworks display.

Juliet, indeed, I am sure there is sadness, and we heard emotion in her voice as she spoke. She is herself an Olympian (in fact she has competed in more Games and more sports than Thomas Bach) so she knows what the athletes are missing.

It’s worth remembering that the modern Olympics have been canceled only three times: once during World War I, and twice during World War II. These Games are the first to be held after a year’s postponent. One of the many things that does your head in while thinking about this — and it happened with the Euro 2020 soccer tournament, too — is that here we are, in July of 2021, watching the 2020 Olympics. The year 2020 seems like yesterday, and it also seems like 100 years ago.

Thomas Bach refers to refugees as an “enrichment.” I’m not sure they would choose to enrich the Olympic community by having to flee home.

Thomas Bach thanked the volunteers for their hard work. They deserve that, and more. They don’t get paid and put in long hours. They risk catching the coronavirus, in part from people traveling into this Olympic “bubble.” All that while the I.O.C. members stay in a $500/night hotel and their organization makes billions of dollars from these Games.

Performers danced at the opening ceremony.
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

Is some of the music during the parade of nations reminding you of a climactic battle you once fought, or perhaps a title screen you clicked through a hundred times?

You’re not wrong: The athletes are marching around Tokyo Stadium to songs from video games, which the organizers describe as “a quintessential part of Japanese culture that is loved around the world.” Songs from popular games like Dragon Quest, Kingdom Hearts, Sonic the Hedgehog and the Final Fantasy series have been featured. All were developed by video game studios in Japan.

Curiously, songs from Japan’s most well-known video game studio, Nintendo, seem to be missing. No Zelda, no Mario, no Pokemon, despite the fact that, five years ago in Brazil, Japan’s then-Prime Minister transformed into Mario, red hat and all, as part of the closing ceremony for the symbolic handoff of the Summer Games from Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo.

Thomas Bach is asking us to cherish this moment, to celebrate the fact that we are all here together. “This is the unifyng power of sport,” he says.

Motoko, you wonder how relieved Seiko Hashimoto will be after the Games are done. Could be that she will be sad too after everything that has happened?

Jill Biden, the first lady, traveled to Tokyo this week and attended the opening ceremony.
Credit…Pool photo by Leon Neal

Jill Biden, the first lady, clapped and waved on Friday as a contingent of masked American athletes joined the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Dr. Biden traveled to Japan as leader of a small presidential delegation, and her appearance came amid concerns of skyrocketing coronavirus cases in Tokyo. Biden administration officials said the first lady had wanted to travel to the Olympics to represent the United States and show support for its athletes, most of whom will compete in the Games without family members cheering them from the stands.

The first lady published an open letter to the athletes on NBC News’s website on Friday, telling the U.S. team, “You bring us together in a way that little else can.”

Before appearing at the opening ceremony, Dr. Biden participated in a whirlwind of diplomatic events, including a reception with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan and his wife, Mariko, at the Imperial Palace.

The first lady will stop in Hawaii for a vaccination event on her way back from Japan this weekend. This is the first solo trip abroad for Dr. Biden, whose traveling schedule currently outpaces her husband’s.

A bunch of athletes seem to have given up and are lounging on the floor, examining their phones.

The Laotian delegation is trying its best to wave its flag in the background as Seiko Hashimoto speaks.

“Imagine” was also sung at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. On that divided peninsula, its longing for a world without borders was ever so slightly pointed. But it’s peculiar for it to be turning into an Olympics staple. What exactly would the Olympics be if, as Angelique Kidjo sang for Tokyo, there were “no countries”?

Now nine minutes of speeches by Seiko Hashimoto, the organizing committee chairwoman and Thomas Bach. Hey, did you know he won a gold medal in fencing? That’s the second time they’ve told us that in multiple languages.

You have to wonder what is going through Seiko Hashimoto’s mind: she took over an already controversial Olympic organizing committee and had to deal with one scandal after another, not all of them of her making.

A giant rotating Earth has appeared above the stadium as John Lennon’s “Imagine” is playing. And hey, I might have something in my eye. Or allergies. This has been such a long year and a half, and we’ve suffered through this pandemic not just as a nation but as an entire world.

I’m with you, Sarah, That’s a powerful rendition.

I guess I thought celebrities earnestly singing “Imagine” was one the temporary ban list, but I guess not?

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Formal Olympian wardrobes are rarely “cool” — and rarely available to smaller countries with less promotional muscle. But this year Liberia changed that narrative.

They have only three athletes competing, but have fielded a Summer Olympic team almost every year since 1956. They have never, however, won an Olympic medal, and have had to scrounge for sponsorships before almost every Games. That’s where Telfar Clemens, the Brooklyn-based designer famous for his “Bushwick Birkin,” comes in.

Clemens is a Liberian American designer who founded his own company in 2004 with the motto, “Not for you, for everyone.” When Emmanuel Matadi, one of the Liberian sprinters, found out Clemens was Liberian, the team decided to reach out. The resulting collection — which also includes performance looks and doesn’t really resemble anything seen before in the Olympic arena — had a lot more meaning than anyone might expect, for both the team and designer.

Read on to find out the story behind the collaboration, and how it all came together.

What better to follow a parade of nations than imagining no countries?

No matter where I hear it, and who sings it, and what is going on, “Imagine” makes me cry.

Drone arrangements like this are not new at this point, but this one above the stadium is huge, three-dimensional and pretty breathtaking. You can almost see the mouths agape behind people’s masks.

The great drone orb is supposed to represent the motto of “unity in diversity.”

Victor, I am a sucker for just this kind of schmaltz. Works for me.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Now that’s a good effect. Lighted drones above the stadium form the games logo, then shift to form the Earth. Very cool.

Depending on your taste, it’s either the greatest message of world peace ever written or a treacly load of tripe. It’s the ubiquitous “Imagine.”

The great orb awakens!

As you watch this strange opening ceremony, the epitome of cognitive dissonance, it’s hard not to be buffetted between contradictory points of view. One: it is wasteful, reckless, a terrible miscalculation and a pointless exercise in a dark and terrible time.

Two, it is a stirring and necessary reminder that life goes on, that there is a future, that the world can still work together and that — as with every other dark and terrible time in history — this, too, will pass. I’m a softie, and I’m an optimist, and so I’m going to go with the hopeful version. Life goes on.

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe, a former swimmer, is on the jumbotron now. She’s the head of the I.O.C.’s athlete commission and has been heavily involved in the Olympic’s anti-doping movement over the years.

Smoke wafting over the stadium is evidence that the fireworks were real and not computer-generated.

The lack of excitement from the Japanese leadership is palpable.

It looks like Rui took the flag. Perhaps the height differential with Yui Susaki made it tough for them both to hold it at once.

You can hear some scattered whistles and cheers for Japan as the host nation team marches in. But this is nothing like the reception these athletes might have expected in their home country a year ago.

First Lady Jill Biden is here and waved to the American contingent as it entered the stadium. The in-house video next flashed to Anita DeFrantz, an I.O.C. member and a rower on the United States’ 1976 Olympic team.

Macron can’t help but glance at the jumbotron as he waves.

Rui Hachimura!

Wow, Prime Minister Suga just appeared on the jumbotron applauding but looking utterly bored.

NBC has flag bearers Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez doing interviews mid-march!

Team USA looks comparatively huge marching into the stadium.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Team France isn’t small either.

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