Olympic Games

Tokyo uses the power of sport to send a message of optimism

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games calls for joining forces to fight against adversity and bets on making parity visible

3 min
A group of performers perform a routine during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

BarcelonaThe world is not in a celebratory mood, but the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Tokyo has served to send a message of optimism. The event, which has remembered with restrained emotion the victims who have lost their lives because of covid-19, has used the strength of sport to send a cry of hope and strength to fight against adversity.

The tennis player Naomi Osaka, the athlete who brought to the table the need to talk about athletes' mental health, was in charge of lighting the Olympic cauldron at the end of a ceremony that lasted four hours.

The ceremony, which began with Japanese punctuality, combined the tradition and innovation of Japanese culture. The projection of multimedia graphics and the use of drones were delightfully combined with classic elements such as fireworks and kabuki, a type of traditional theatre, to convey emotions with extreme delicacy. The aim was to showcase the athletes' efforts and the diversity they represent. Only 1,000 guests were able to watch the show live in a stadium with a capacity of 68,000 spectators.

Tokyo, the host city of the international event, formerly known as Edo between 1603 and 1868, presented one of the characteristics that emerged during this period, the use of wood and carpentry, traditional symbols of Japanese craftsmanship and architecture. One of the most emotional moments of the ceremony was the performance of Mísia. The singer was in charge of singing the national anthem, Kimigayo. At the 1964 Games, Japan's first, athletes from the different participating nations carried tree seeds that were planted in the country and today, fifty years later, the wood from these trees has returned to the stadium in the form of Olympic rings.

Fireworks during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

The parade, which despite being done at the pace of a video game, has exceeded two hours, has had some absences. The Spanish field hockey team, for example, has not participated to try to arrive rested to their competitive debut. The standard bearers of the Spanish delegation have been two Catalans, Mireia Belmonte from Badalona and Saúl Craviotto from Lleida. "I have lived the moment with pride, as a reward. We have many restrictions, but the Olympic spirit remains intact", explained the swimmer. "The fact that we can compete is exciting. I hope that the people who watched the ceremony on television have stayed with this. We've all had a hard time, we all know someone who has been affected by covid. My coach, for example, lost his father", the canoeist recalled. The parade, which has served to make visible the progress made in terms of parity, with mixed flags in almost all delegations, even in countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been of maximum emotion for athletes like Pau Gasol, who will live his last Olympic Games. The design of the banners informing of the names of the participating countries looked like the dialogue bubbles used in comics.

Craviotto and Belmonte

Muhammad Yunus, a Bengali economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has received the prestigious Olympic laurel. "The Olympic Committee takes the social dimension of sport very seriously and opens the door for athletes to lead the transformation of the world to achieve a more just society", he said.

The Olympic oath was taken by two athletes, two judges and two technicians, six people who represented the diversity of the Olympic movement. Another highlight of the ceremony came when 1,824 drones flew over the Olympic Stadium representing the ball of the world. Beautiful. The collective performance of Imagine, by John Lennon, a song that over time has become an anthem, also struck a chord.

"Now is the time to join forces", said Seiko Hashimoto. The President of the Olympic Organizing Committee praised the work of the essential workers. "Today is a moment of hope. It is very different from what we had imagined, but at last we are all together. The journey is difficult and has unprecedented challenges. What we have learned is that we need more solidarity within societies and between societies", said IOC President Thomas Bach. Japan's Emperor Naruhito declared the Olympic Games open.

Pau Gasol takes a selfie with some of the representatives of the Spanish delegation in Tokyo

Protests around the stadium

Some people have gathered around the Olympic stadium to protest the celebration of these Olympic Games, which are a year late, precisely because of the coronavirus.

The ceremony was largely the brainchild of theater director Kentaro Kobayashi, who was forced to resign as head of the event when comments he made as an actor in the 1990s joking about the Holocaust were made public. That week, Keigo Oyamada, who was in charge of the event's music, also resigned when it came to light that he had bullied children at his school when he was young.