Around one year after their original starting date, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have officially kicked off in what will be a TV event with no crowds on site due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday's opening ceremony summoned athletes from the 206 participating countries to parade before a spectator-free stadium where Japanese hosts staged performances of both modern and classical representations of their ancestral culture.
With 1,800 drones hovering the Tokyo skies, tennis player Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron. It was her first public appearance since she pulled out of the French Open in May after boycotting press conferences, raising concerns about her mental health.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach then opened the Games with a message of unity, describing the ceremony as a “moment of hope” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
John Lennon’s Imagine was performed as part of a broader repertoire which included a presentation of traditional Japanese Kabuki theater and an elaborate drone show.
Tokyo 2020 organizers also paid tribute to health care workers as athletes from across the world paraded with their faces covered by masks before less than 1,000 people while observing strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to “be quiet around the venue.”
“With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties,” said the President of the organizing committee, Seiko Hashimoto.