23 July 2021

Drones, protests and poignant tributes – how the opening ceremony played out

23 July 2021

The Tokyo Olympics officially kicked off with a touching ceremony at the Olympic Stadium.

It had been hit by a raft of problems – after the director was sacked and composer quit – and here, the PA news agency looks at how the ceremony played out.

Best moment

The crowning moment of any opening ceremony is usually the lighting of the torch and so it proved again in Tokyo.

Former Japan athletes and para-athletes passed the flame around the stadium until tennis star Naomi Osaka took it on the final journey.

The sphere opened like a flower – to embody vitality and hope according to the official description – before Osaka lit it to officially start the Games after the traditional long procession of the teams, speeches and fireworks.

Most touching

Performers during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

The opening montage which included footage of Japan winning the right to host the Games quickly took a sombre tone as the clock flashed forward before stopping at 2020 with empty streets.

Moments of silence to remember those who have lost their lives served as a poignant tribute amid the pandemic. The low-key ceremony struck the right balance in difficult times.

Most uplifting

Syrian flagbearers Hend Zaza and Ahmad Saber Hamcho (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Wire)

Hend Zaza, the 12-year-old Syrian, will be the youngest competitor at Tokyo 2020.

She earned her table tennis qualification by winning the West Asia qualifying tournament when she was 11 years old.

Zaza carried her country’s flag and – having grown up in the country amid a civil war, Syrian unrest beginning over 10 years ago during the Arab Spring of 2011 – it was a triumph of skill and spirit.

Biggest contrast

A newspaper is held up in protest outside the Olympic Stadium (Mike Egerton/PA) (PA Wire)

The Olympic ceremony is traditionally about unity and a celebration of sport and culture. This year, outside, the protests over Tokyo hosting the Games were audible.

A woman with a megaphone was leading the chants against the Olympics as crowds gathered which continued to underline the opposition to the controversial Games.

Best showstopper

It would not be Japan without some high-tech wizardry and the drone show which helped wrap the ceremony up was extremely impressive.

Nearly 2,000 drones flew in perfect sync to create a globe above the stadium which was an incredible technical spectacle seen across Tokyo.

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