In Pictures: Tokyo 2020 Olympics open with sombre ceremony
The Olympics are held amid anger and disbelief in much of the host country, Japan, but organisers hope the games will offset the widespread opposition.
Fireworks illuminate National Stadium during the opening ceremony [Kiichiro Sato/AP]
23 Jul 2021
The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics took place on Friday in a nearly empty stadium after a year-long pandemic postponement and a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.
The curtailed celebration began with a video showing athletes training at home during the pandemic before fireworks burst into the air above the Olympic Stadium.
Just a few hundred officials and dignitaries were in the stands of the 68,000-seat venue, including French President Emmanuel Macron, US First Lady Jill Biden, and Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, who declared the Games open.
The Olympics have faced opposition in Japan over fears the global gathering of 11,000 athletes could trigger a super-spreader event. The event is taking place under strict virus measures.
Overseas fans are banned for the first time in the history of the Games, and domestic spectators can only watch events at a handful of venues.
Inside the stadium, on Friday, fireworks erupted off the arena’s roof and music blared from its loudspeakers, but the tone for much of the ceremony was sombre, including during an opening number when performers mimicked athletes training in isolation.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka concluded the ceremony by lighting the Olympic cauldron atop a peak inspired by Mount Fuji.
The Tokyo Olympics opened with a ceremony reflecting a Games like no other, walking a fine line between celebrating the world's best athletes while acknowledging the pandemic. [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]
Japan was forced to hold the Games without fans. In this photo, flag bearers Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura of Japan lead their contingent at the opening ceremony. [Mike Blake/Reuters]
Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, this opening ceremony had fewer than 1,000 people in attendance. Syrian athletes react as they march into the stadium [Natacha Pisarenko/AP]
Flag bearers Dania Nour and Mohammed Hamada of the Palestinian Territory lead their contingent during the opening ceremony. [Phil Noble/Reuters]
Qatar's flag bearer Tala Abujbara leads the delegation at the Olympic Stadium. [Ben Stansall/AFP]
The ceremony wove together references to both Japan's traditional crafts and its globally adored video games, with athletes entering to theme music from famed titles. [Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters]
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach wearing a protective face mask makes a speech during the opening ceremony. [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]
The organisers sent the traditional message of peace while drones formed the shape of the Olympic emblem in the sky above the stadium and transformed into the shape of the globe. [Marko Djurica/Reuters]
Athletes of Iran take part in a reduced parade of about 5,700 athletes, far lower than the usual numbers. [Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters]
In a recent poll in Japan, 55 percent of respondents opposed the Games going ahead. During the opening, protesters faced police officers outside the stadium. [Issei Kato/Reuters]
But the show continued, and fireworks lit up the sky during the ceremony. [Hannah McKay/AP Photo]
Athletes from Saudi Arabia walk during the inauguration day at the 2020 Summer Olympics. [Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo]
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) speaks with US First Lady Jill Biden during the opening ceremony. [Dylan Martinez/AFP]
Mercy Moim and Andrew Amonde, of Kenya, carry their country's flag in the Olympic Stadium. [David J. Phillip/AP Photo]
Pita Taufatofua, of Tonga, walks during the opening ceremony. [Petr David Josek/AP Photo]
The Olympic oath has been updated for the Tokyo Games, with athletes swearing their commitment to inclusion, equality, and non-discrimination. [Naoki Ogura/Reuters]
Flag bearers Hugues Fabrice Zango and Angelika Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso lead their contingent [Mike Blake/Reuters]
Naomi Osaka of Japan prepares to light the cauldron during the Opening ceremony [Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters]
Osaka holds the Olympic torch ahead of lighting the Olympic cauldron [Lucy Nicholson/Reuters]