Monday, September 27

Let the games begin! Tokyo 2020 kicks off with manga-inspired opening ceremony

After a one-year delay, several scandals, and with the specter of the COVID-19 pandemic hovering over him, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics finally began on Friday.

Athletes from around the world not only stepped onto the Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony, but also into the world of Japanese comics and graphic novels.

An orchestral medley of iconic Japanese video game songs served as the soundtrack for the parade of countries at the ceremony.

The first song played on Friday was “Roto’s Theme” from the Dragon Quest series. Dragon Quest was hugely influential as the first console RPG, launching a genre. The parade also featured the theme song from Final Fantasy and “Victory Fanfare,” the song that plays when a player wins a match.

Another well known song that was featured was “Star Light Zone”, from the original Sonic the Hedgehog. In addition to appearing in the original game, a remixed version of Mario & Sonic appeared in the DS version at the Olympics.

Additionally, the country name posters for the athletes parade used manga speech bubbles, and the costumes of the poster bearers and assistants had manga touches in their design.

No spectators for the 11,090 athletes

This kick-off marks more than the beginning of two weeks of sporting prowess, it is also the end of a long and grueling marathon for the Japanese organizers who have been waiting for this moment since September 8, 2013 and the designation of Tokyo as the city. venue of the 2020 Olympics.

But the 11,090 athletes that make up the 206 delegations, which for the first time include as many women as men, ventured to parade in front of a nearly empty stadium.

In the grandstand of the venue, which normally seats 68,000, were the Japanese Emperor Naruhito, the president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, the French president Emmanuel Macron and the first lady of the United States, Jill Biden.

These dignitaries and a few thousand other privileged guests will witness the lighting of the cauldron next to the lit flame on March 12, 2020 at Olympia, which traditionally marks the start of the Games.

But in a surprise move, after months of polls indicating hostility towards the Games, Tokyo residents gathered by the hundreds around the Olympic Stadium before the ceremony.

They saw how the Blue Impulse air patrol flew over the Japanese capital and drew Olympic rings in the sky. They then posed next to the Olympic rings, carved into the stadium esplanade: “I am delighted that the Games are starting, it is a source of pride for me,” explained a Tokyo resident.

Tests, masks and family ban.

To reassure the Japanese public, most of whom would have preferred another postponement or the total cancellation of the Olympic fortnight, the Japanese authorities took drastic measures: daily tests for athletes, mandatory masks for all, meetings limited to the strict minimum in the Villa Olympic, the prohibition of relatives and relatives of foreign athletes from arriving in Japan and, last but not least, the almost total absence of spectators, something never before seen in the history of the Olympic Games.

Still, anti-Olympics protesters marched from Harajuku to Sendagaya ahead of the Olympics opening ceremony, criticizing the Japanese government for what some say it prioritizes the Olympics over the nation’s health.

About 23% of the population of more than 120 million have been fully vaccinated, a number that has risen since May but is still a long way from where Japan’s government hoped to be before the Olympics.

Japan has weathered the pandemic better than many other countries, recording around 853,000 cases and 15,100 deaths since the pandemic began. But infections have risen, with Tokyo hitting a six-month high of 1,979 daily cases on Thursday.

The organizers of the event have also had to deal with several scandals, including the resignation of the president of the organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, last February for sexist statements, or that of the artistic director of the opening ceremony on Thursday for a bad joke about the Holocaust. done more than twenty years ago.

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