Eddy Alvarez, Merengue and Alejandro Sanz represent Hispanics at Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony
COVID-19 may still be the reality of the world, but the Olympics in Japan forged on in spite of its continued presence.
A year after they were supposed to start, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics kicked off last night in the Japanese capital unlike any Olympic games in history.
Instead of thousands of screaming fans from across the world packing the Olympic Stadium, there were just 1,000, as Tokyo remains under a state of emergency.
Rather than a live, in-person event, the opening ceremony looked more like a for-TV production as more than 200 countries paraded around the stadium for mostly cameras.
To match the lack of fans, the production also began on a somber note, as the first event of the night was a video that showed both Japan’s preparation for the Olympics amid a worldwide pandemic, and honored the millions across the world that have fallen victim to COVID-19.
A moment of silence followed.
In an attempt to raise spirits, the next part of the production looked back at Tokyo’s first Summer Olympic games, held in 1964. Los Angeles Times staff writer David Wharton also noted the following performance of “Kiyari Uta,” a work song dating back to Japan’s Edo period that played as wooden Olympic rings were constructed.
It was one of the many celebrations of traditional and modern Japanese culture to mark the ceremony.
When it came time for the 200-plus countries to parade their teams around the stadium, video game music from some of the country’s best-known franchises played.
The teams, while smaller than their total size because of COVID restrictions, came out with the same flare of previous years.
Some highlights include the continued presence of Tonga’s flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, whose oiled, cut body captured the attention of all tuning in, the Dominican Republic’s display of merengue upon its entrance, and the larger theme of having two flag bearers — one man and one woman.
"The hot, shirtless Tongan flagbearer from Rio is BACK!"
Pita Taufatofua became an overnight sensation five years ago when he marched shirtless and in a traditional Tongan outfit at the opening ceremonies in 2016 and 2018. He is back for #Tokyo2020. https://t.co/lSzzr8Lsf4 pic.twitter.com/bT2HlMoKhO
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 23, 2021
For the United States, the flag bearers were women’s basketball legend Sue Bird and Cuban-American baseball player Eddy Alvarez.
When asked about the opportunity, Alvarez offered all his praise to his parents, who came to the U.S. before he was born in Miami to give themselves and their children a better life.
“Just to get the honor to represent the United States of America, to hold the flag — the symbol of liberty, of freedom — my family came over to this country from Cuba in search of opportunity, and if it wasn’t for them doing that, I wouldn’t be in the position that I am now,” the baseball player said in an interview on the TODAY show following the ceremony.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 23, 2021
The athlete with the honor of carrying the Olympic torch and lighting the Olympic cauldron was Japan’s own tennis star, Naomi Osaka.
The ceremony ended with a performance by artists from all over the world of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which was also performed at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, as pointed out by NBC News.
The Spanish-speaking world was repped by Spanish musician, singer and composer, Alejandro Sanz, whose vocals rang out as a fleet of illuminated drones formed planet Earth in the sky above the stadium.