Eleven outstanding moments from the Olympic opening ceremony

efore the Tokyo 2020 Olympic opening ceremony, an advisor to the production, Marco Balich, had promised a sobering ceremony, with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. It mostly felt very subdued indeed until the last half-hour. Here are eleven of the key moments

The opening section depicted athletes training alone and despondent as the Games were postponed. One person in particular was taking part in a seemingly endless lonely treadmill session.

It was then revealed she was Arisa Tsubata, a Japanese boxer whose hopes to compete at Tokyo had been dashed. Her qualifying bout was cancelled due to the pandemic, and so when places were allotted on the basis of world rankings instead, Tsubata, who works as a nurse, missed out.

The ceremony then paused to remember those whose lives were lost to Covid, with a stark performance by a single dancer on a darkened stage.

There was also an explicit mention of the lives lost in the attack on the 1972 Munich Games, 什么时候 11 members of the Israeli Olympic party were murdered. Relatives of the victims have long called for them to be remembered formally in opening ceremonies, but until now the IOC had refused.

Tokyo 2020’s Olympic stadium contains a huge quantity of wood, symbolically sourced from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Wood was a strong theme in the ceremony, with a tap-dance routine based on traditional woodcrafts. The Olympic rings were then assembled from the material.

Tokyo has tried to stress sustainability as part of its Olympic hosting – the cardboard “anti-sex” beds have been part of that effort – and the Olympic rings in the ceremony were made from trees grown from seeds donated from around the world by athletes who competed in Tokyo’s first Olympics in 1964.

By far the most fun part of the ceremony was near the end, with a routine that saw the Olympic pictograms – the little graphic symbols that represent each sport first introduced in those 1964 Tokyo Olympics – bought to life in the arena in a hilariously-costumed dance routine that demanded elite athlete levels of precision.

The soundtrack for the athlete’s parade was orchestral versions of famous of themes from one of Japan’s greatest cultural exports – video games. The tunes featured included music from Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy and Sonic the Hedgehog.

Designed by Giorgio Armani, Italy’s suits were the sartorial hit (or disaster) of the athlete’s parade, depending on your taste. They featured a play on the Japanese flag, using the colours of the Italian flag in the circular design of the Hinomaru. Or looking like an inaccurately coloured Pac-Man, if you wanted to stick with the video games theme.

Latvia’s 1970s aluminium space dresses ran Italy a close second though.

Yoko Ono was born in Tokyo, and Imagine, which she co-wrote with husband John Lennon was used in the ceremony, sung by singers from each different continent. Ono was not included, but tweeted a message of support, 说: “The song ‘Imagine’ embodied what we believed together at the time. John and I met – he comes from the West and I come from the East – and still we are together.”

It was Pita Taufatofua’s third stint carrying the Tongan flag bare-chested and oiled up. He went viral for doing it at Rio in 2016, and then reprised it after he switched disciplines from taekwondo to cross-country skiing to represent his country in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The IOC has introduced the concept of joint flagbearers in a bid to increase the gender equity on display in the opening ceremony, and so this time Taufatofua was accompanied by Malia Paseka, who wisely opted not to follow his example.

Organisers will probably be less concerned with Taufatofua not wearing his shirt than they will be with athletes from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan spotted flouting Covid protocols and going maskless into the parade.

No Olympic opening ceremony is complete without a comedy skit that makes absolutely no sense outside the host country. Occasionally we got glimpses of this slapstick comedy TV crew.

Easily the most impressive moment visually of the night though was a display of drones, forming the Tokyo 2020 Olympic symbol and then the planet Earth live over the top of the stadium. Ceremonies in the past have been criticised for using CGI to augment their displays for television viewers. There was no need for CGI here.

The tennis superstar, who has been so open this year about her mental wellbeing, was the laudable choice from Japan’s Olympic team to be the person to light the Olympic cauldron and signal the climax of the ceremony.