Tokyo Olympics begin with muted ceremony and empty stadium

With muted ceremony and empty stadium, Tokyo Olympics begin
Athletes are introduced during the opening ceremony at the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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Daily US Times: Belated and beleaguered, the coronavirus-delayed Tokyo Olympics finally begin Friday night with made-for-TV choreography and cascading fireworks that unfolded in a near-empty stadium. A colorful but strangely subdued ceremony that set a striking tone to match a unique pandemic-hit Games.

As their opening played out, devoid of the usual crowd, the Tokyo Olympics convened amid simmering disbelief and anger in much of Japan, but organizers are hoping that the excitement of the sports to follow would offset the widespread opposition.

Fireworks illuminate over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

Trepidations throughout the host country have threatened for months to drown out the usual carefully packaged glitz of the opening. However, inside the stadium after dusk Friday, a precisely calibrated ceremony sought to portray that the Games — and their spirit — are going on.

Lanterns illuminated during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Early on the opening ceremony, an ethereal blue light bathed the empty seats in the stadium as loud music muted the shouts of scattered protesters outside calling for the Tokyo Olympics to be canceled — a widespread sentiment here. A single stage held an octagon shape in the stadium meant to resemble Japan’s fabled Mount Fuji. Later, an orchestral medley of songs from iconic video games of the country that served as the soundtrack for athletes’ entrances.

Anti-Olympics protesters, right, stage a rally in front of lines of policemen near National Stadium in Tokyo Friday, July 23, 2021. (Ryosuke Uematsu/Kyodo News via AP)

In their usual parade, athletes marched into the stadium, waving enthusiastically to thousands of empty seats and to a world hungry to watch them compete but surely wondering what to make of it all.

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