Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Olympic Games of Hope

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At eight o’clock in the afternoon of July 23 and one year less, one day later than expected, the Tokyo National Stadium became the epicenter of what an Olympic party in times of pandemic gives of itself.

Restrained and sober, neat and detailed, the opening ceremony gave an idea of ​​the enormous effort invested by the organizers of the IOC and Japan to spread a message of unity and faith in the future. And at the same time it showed the inescapable limitations in such a difficult time. Pomp and circumstance finished off with the most emotional moments, those of the lighting of the Olympic cauldron by the tennis player Naomi Osaka on a promontory that represented Mount Fuji.

The beauty and plasticity of the moment, to the sounds of Ravel’s Bolero, was preceded by the emotion of the last relays. The Olympic flame emerged from the bowels of the stadium and the torch was carried by former wrestler Saori Yoshida and former judoka Tadahiro Nomura, who passed it on to various legends of Japanese and Paralympic sports. And in the penultimate relay, it was taken by some children who lived in the Fukushima area devastated by earthquakes in 2013.The Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka calls her an Olympic champion, this Friday in Tokyo.The 68,000 empty seats in the stadium only highlighted the enormous importance of the public. Sport and spectacle pale without the shouting, the silences, the spontaneous expression of the spectator’s state of mind. The most expensive Games —13,430 million euros—, the ones that have taken the longest to develop and about which the most uncertainties have been planned and are planned are already underway after a calm, intimate and empathetic ceremony. A respite for the Japanese population, whose reaction will be indecipherable. What the cold statistics of the television audience say. Its pre-eminence reaches its maximum expression in this context.

Half of the 11,274 athletes who will compete dressed in their colorful and diverse costumes to parade and send a message of resilience, Olympic passion and values ​​such as solidarity and peace, in the words of IOC President Thomas Bach. “Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it’s very different, but let’s cherish this moment. We are all here together,” he said in his speech. Nor was the center of the stadium filled as it used to on these occasions. Athletes do not lose their smile or enthusiasm. They waved little flags, handkerchiefs as is de rigueur. And they greeted a grandstand in which there were barely 900 invited personalities and as many journalists, and of course, the television cameras.Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Games, this Friday at the Olympic Stadium.The Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Games, this Friday at the Olympic Stadium.

The ceremony began with videos broadcast on the two stadium screens with images of various athletes competing. They staged the countdown since Tokyo was designated the venue for the Games in 2013, when it surpassed, among others, Madrid’s candidacy. The first and scarce fireworks were launched from the roof of the almost symbolic stadium, like those that closed the act.

The choreographies began with the dancers, numbered in comparison with previous editions of the Games, and discreetly keeping the distance between them. The Emperor of Japan Naruhito and Thomas Bach made their entrance. The flag of Japan was raised, and Misia, the famous singer, performed the hymn Kimi ga yo (The Reign of Her Imperial Majesty). A few minutes of recollection was given in remembrance of the deceased, particularly those who have lost their lives due to the covid. Helpers and dancers, like carpenters, joined five giant rings, carved from pine and fir trees planted to commemorate the 1964 Games, also held in Tokyo, illuminated by paper lanterns and moved to the center of the stadium, where they finished taking the shape of the olympic rings.

After the parade and the swearing in of the judges, athletes and coaches, a tribute video was shown starring the Hungarian-Israeli former gymnast Agnes Keleti, the oldest person with an Olympic medal at 100 years of age. It was followed by one of the most shocking moments of the night. The children formed the Tokyo logo with 1,824 drones, which flew over the stadium to become a globe.

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