Olympics 2020 finally opens with a spectacle

The build up to the Olympic Games is rarely straightforward.

Thursday, 22nd July 2021, 5:00 pm
Jeanette Kwakye, JJ Chalmers, Hazel Irvine, Sam Quek MBE, Clare Balding, Alex Scott MBE, Dan Walker, Gabby Logan, Jason Mohammad, Nihal Arthanayake
Jeanette Kwakye, JJ Chalmers, Hazel Irvine, Sam Quek MBE, Clare Balding, Alex Scott MBE, Dan Walker, Gabby Logan, Jason Mohammad, Nihal Arthanayake

After both World Wars, the losing countries were not invited to participate, while in 1980, US President Jimmy Carter issued a boycott of the Moscow Games to protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the USSR responded by doing the same four years later in Los Angeles.

The 1996 Olympics in Atlanta were marred by the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, and many feared that the London games in 2012 would be overshadowed by travel chaos, security meltdowns and organisational incompetence. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.

Nevertheless, despite these and many other issues before and during each event, the Olympics have always gone ahead – until 2020.

Last March, in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic, the Tokyo Games were postponed for the first time in the modern Olympics’ 124-year history. And during the year that we have been waiting for the action to begin, there has been no end of controversy, putting the 2020 Olympics in even more doubt.

Back in February, the Japanese organising committee head Yoshiro Mori resigned over sexist comments, while the country’s citizens increasingly expressed wariness and opposition over Tokyo’s hosting of the delayed Games as people continued to die from the pandemic around the globe.

Then, as the days ticked down to the start, mounting uncertainties, including the state of the virus in the Far East, shaky Japanese support for the Games and growing demands for gender equality and diversity plagued the build-up.

Nevertheless, the sporting spectacle is finally about to get under way this morning, as the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will finally be declared open at Tokyo’s National Stadium and the Land of the Rising Sun welcomes the athletes of the world. The ongoing pandemic means that the ceremony will be smaller and simpler than had originally been envisaged, but it is still sure to be a spectacular and moving curtain-raiser.

It will draw on the three core concepts of the Games Vision, set out by the organising committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games – ‘Striving for your personal best’, ‘Accepting one another’ and ‘Passing on a legacy for the future’.

The Olympics were last held in Tokyo in 1964, and there is sure to be a reflection on the economic and technological impact of those Games.

After Clare Balding and Alex Scott have introduced action from the ceremony (there are highlights at 7.30pm), JJ Chalmers will be on hand at midnight to introduce the opening day’s action.

The first medals of the Games will be presented, and there is early British interest in a multitude of events.

The men’s cycling road race starts at 3am from Musashinonomori Park, while in rowing, it’s the heats of the men’s coxless four at Sea Forest Waterway, with Britain hoping for a sixth consecutive gold in the event.

The first gold medal of the Games will go to the winner of the women’s 10m air rifle at Asaka Shooting Range from 2.45am.

From then on, there will 17 days of world-class competition and medals handed out in 339 events across 33 sports.

Hopefully, like many of the delayed events that have already taken place this summer, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will be well worth the wait.