On July 21, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics' first competition took place at the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, with the Japanese softball team facing Australia. Two days later, on July 23, the Games officially kicked off with the Opening Ceremony. After an extra year of waiting and unprecedented obstacles leading up to the event, the Olympic flame is burning in Tokyo and people around the world are following along from home with excitement.
For the first time in Olympic history, the opening ceremony was held without a live audience. However, this did not dampen the athletes’ excitement to represent their country in the Tokyo 2020 Games. They marched into the stadium, mask-clad, to music from famous Japanese games such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Final Fantasy. The 206 teams walked in one after the other, with placards emblazoned with the team name inside a manga-style speech bubble—another nod to Japanese popular culture. Some athletes used the opportunity to show off and celebrate their own culture by wearing traditional pieces of clothing. “United by Emotion” was the main theme of the opening show and it celebrated various sides, past and present, of Tokyo’s culture. Performers dressed as Edo-era craftspeople danced alongside others in outfits that pay tribute to Tokyo’s modern street fashion icons. Amongst the most memorable moments were the miming of the Games’ 50 different pictograms and a 1,824-drone display showcasing the city’s high-tech side. First introduced at the Tokyo 1964 Games, the Olympic pictograms have since become a standard part of the Games with their recognizable universal designs. Finally, after touring across Japan for the past months, the Olympic flame made its appearance at the Olympic Stadium in central Tokyo. Waiting inside was internationally renowned tennis star Naomi Osaka. She had the honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron, marking the start of 17 days of heated competitions between the best athletes in the world. Representing the sun over Japan’s iconic landmark Mount Fuji, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Cauldron is fueled by hydrogen to avoid CO2 emissions as a part of the Games sustainability plan.
With no international visitors are present in Tokyo for the Games, most locals are also limited in their participation and are enjoying the competitions from the safety of their homes. Competitions in Sendai, Ibaraki, and Shizuoka are the few exceptions that allow a live audience, although very limited. Regardless, there are many opportunities for people in Tokyo to get a taste of the Games, including air shows by Blue Impulse, TOKYO SKYTREE’s Olympic themed lighting, and public exhibitions and art.
A few notable exhibitions are Pavilion Tokyo 2021, Olympic Agora, and the Tokyo TokyoALL JAPAN COLLECTION. Pavilion Tokyo 2021 is a project featuring pavilions by world-renowned Japanese artists and architects in nine locations, all in the vicinity of the National Stadium. Spreading the word about Olympic history and the purpose of the Games is the Olympic Agora, an exhibition also available to visit online. People passing by the Tokyo Sports Square in Yurakucho during the Games can go inside for a photo opportunity with the mascots Miraitowa and Someity, get their hands on official goods, and learn interesting facts related to the Tokyo 2020 Games. Also inside the Tokyo Sports Square is the Tokyo Tokyo ALL JAPAN COLLECTION, an event showcasing specialties, crafts, and technologies from both Tokyo and all around Japan.
As the thrill-packed competitions continue, the streets of Tokyo might not show the excitement expected when Tokyo was announced to be the host city back in 2012. Instead, the city is quieter than usual, an indicator to how the locals are tuning in to the event from the safety of their homes.