Olympics open in Tokyo

Games push forward despite threat of COVID-19

TOKYO, Japan – After a 365-day wait, exactly a year after the original date, numerous reports of setbacks and possible cancellation and the threat of a coronavirus pandemic that continues to wreak havoc, the Tokyo Olympic Games are officially open as the world’s most populous city hosts the Olympics for a second time.

Amidst a practically empty 16,000-seat stadium – as fans are banned – and as a part of a subdued opening ceremony, a small Bahamian contingent marched into the Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan, on Friday night. Flag bearers Donald Thomas and Joanna Evans, who will be competing in the men’s high in athletics and the women’s 200 and 400 meters (m) free in swimming, respectively, led the way. They were followed by a small group of Bahamian officials as the majority of Bahamian athletes are yet to arrive in Tokyo.

For both Thomas and Evans, it was their first time representing their country as flag bearers at the Olympics. This is the fourth successive Olympic Games for Thomas, and the second straight for Evans.

As for the much anticipated opening ceremony, athletes from over 200 countries marched into the stadium on Friday night. With the order of procession being determined by alphabetical order using the Japanese alphabet, The Bahamas was one of the last countries to make an appearance. The United States of America (US) and host nation Japan were also among the last.

The US has the largest contingent at the Olympics, with 613 athletes set to compete over the next two weeks. Host nation Japan will be represented by 65 athletes. The Bahamas has 16 here in Tokyo.

One of Japan’s most celebrated athletes, female tennis star Naomi Osaka, lit the hydrogen-fueled Olympic cauldron on Friday night, that was revealed from the opening of a sphere on top of a mountain-shaped pedestal in the stadium.

Osaka will represent Japan in women’s singles in tennis at these Olympics.

In total, over 11,000 athletes from 206 countries and territories are set to compete in 339 events of 33 sports over the next two weeks. Still, there is the threat of COVID-19, so much so, that Toshiro Muto, head of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG), had not ruled out a cancellation of the Olympics at the 11th hour if COVID cases continued to spike. There are about 70 reported cases inside the Olympic Village, and outside of that bubble atmosphere, in and around Tokyo, the number of positive cases continues to soar as the nation of Japan enters a state of emergency.

These Olympics are truly historic, the first to be held in the midst of a major pandemic, and the first without fans in the stands. Also, most delegations were led by a male and a female flag bearer for the first time as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed its rules last year in a push for equal gender representation.

There is a lot of uproar surrounding these Olympics, though, and most of it centers around COVID-19 and Japan’s rising number of cases.

Be that as it may, the show goes on as the government of Japan continues to pledge a “safe and secured” event.

The opening display on Friday night featured Japanese tradition, dance and culture, and also saluted athletes who would have continued to train throughout the pandemic period.

IOC President Thomas Bach brought remarks and Japanese Emperor Naruhito declared the Games of the 32nd Olympiad officially open as fireworks lit up the night sky above the stadium on Friday night.

For Bahamians, competition got underway over the weekend as swimmers Izaak Bastian and Joanna Evans hit the pool at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre inside the Tatsumi-no-Mori Seaside Park in Tokyo.

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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