Tokyo Olympics: Japan prepares for Opening Ceremony as PM vows to ‘fulfil our obligation to the world’

There will be no fans, just a handful of VIPs, small parties of socially-distanced athletes and protests outside the stadium – the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo 2020 will feel very different.

From the archer in Barcelona in 1992 who fired a burning arrow up into the cauldron of the Olympic flame to the stadium street carnival in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 – it is one of the great global rituals and one that every host nation has put their own distinct stamp on.

Japan’s spectacular without spectators will take place at noon UK time with Tokyo 2020 insisting the Games will be held safely, despite the growing list of COVID positive competitors and concerns about the event leading to a spike of infections in the local population.

The Japanese capital city is still in a state of emergency due to the pandemic.

There is enthusiasm for the Games but equally many Japanese people hold grave doubts that hosting the Games is the right thing to be doing.

“As the nation hosting the games, I believe we must fulfil our obligation to the rest of the world,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told NBC.

“What worried me the most was that the public opinion was divided. I also wanted the Japanese people to understand that the Games will be held safely and securely.

“Over four billion people across the world will be watching these Olympic Games.

“In that context, overcoming the hardship of the coronavirus and to be able to hold the Games. I think there is real value in that.”

But the number of COVID-19 cases among those at the Games continues to grow: 19 new cases were announced on Friday, including three athletes.

It was the worst day so far, bringing the total to 106.

The Opening Ceremony at London 2012 was the moment that the UK realised the home Olympics was actually going to be pretty incredible – a funny, thoughtful and imaginative celebration of our country’s story.

The NHS nurses dancing on beds, the industrial revolution brought back to life, Mr Bean on piano, the Queen (or at least a parachutist pretending to be the monarch) parachuting into the stadium with James Bond, and David Beckham cruising down the Thames on a speedboat. Director Danny Boyle’s masterpiece had everything.

Japan will try and do something equally as spectacular at their almost empty Olympic stadium.

They fired the creative director of the show only yesterday over a joke he made in 1998 about the Holocaust. In these, the most unpredictable Games we have ever known, it is unlikely to be the last surprising thing to happen.

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