Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony: live updates and latest news from Japan

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·23 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony: live updates and latest news from Japan - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony: live updates and latest news from Japan - Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

11:23 AM

Time for a moment to remember

Those who have died during the pandemic and especially those in the Olympic movement who have lost their lives during the games, particularly the Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Olympics.

11:22 AM

Time for the Japanese anthem

Kimi Ga Yo and the raising of the flag.

Athletes carry the Japanese national flag during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images
Athletes carry the Japanese national flag during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images

11:20 AM

Something to do with string?

What does it mean? Gulliver in Liliput? Not sure I've got the hang of this one.

during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

11:17 AM

The host country's flag enters

Carried by Japan Olympic heroes from 1964, 1968 and 2000 plus healthcare workers. Stunning visuals as they walk across a white sheet wearing red tunics/jackets, white trousers and masks.

11:15 AM

Enter the Emperor

After some frankly baffling dance moves with red lights. And alongside him is Thomas Bach, president of the IOC.

11:12 AM

Isolated athletes

Picked out by spotlights until more are illuminated and we see that there are scores of them, training in isolation but connecting online. It's WFH writ large through 'the changing of the seasons' and conveyed through the medium of athletic mime and contemporary dance.

Now the treadmill runner takes a breather and perhaps contemplates the futility of going nowhere fast. Probably not. Bit too bleak.

A performer is seen acting during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Clive Rose/Getty Images
A performer is seen acting during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Clive Rose/Getty Images

11:07 AM

Countdown time

And we have fireworks. Gone very early in indigo and white in the shape of a fan, rocketing off the roof of the stands.

That lasted about 10 seconds and now we have a nurse on a treadmill and one on a rowing machine.

11:06 AM

Let there be life

A performer is seen acting during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
A performer is seen acting during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan - Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

11:04 AM

And so it begins

With a metaphor about a seed of hope, illustrated with a 'primordial motif' which rather looked to me like a melon. Run VT on Japan's 'journey' from winning the bid to this very moment ...

Cotter is doing Rabbie Burns and 'best laid plans' asides now.

11:01 AM

We begin 210 minutes

With Hazel Irvine and Andrew Cotter. I think Huw Edwards did it in 2008.

'Hope for a world that really needs it.' Well, quite. Pious but apt.

10:51 AM

Ben Bloom is our man inside the Olympic Stadium

All is quiet inside the stadium as start time nears but outside the crowds are gathering in huge numbers.

Thousands of people now pack the pavements that circle the stadium and the voice of anti-Olympics protestors can be heard clearly through a megaphone. The police presence is also enormous.

10:49 AM

Here's Thom Gibbs from Tokyo on his hopes and dreams for the opening ceremony

10:48 AM

Ben Bloom reports in sound and vision

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

10:45 AM

Team GB resigned to 14-day quarantine

By Jeremy Wilson

Team GB are increasingly resigned to six athletes being forced to isolate for the full 14 days until the eve of their Olympic races after being identified as close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case.

The 3,000m steeplechaser, Zak Seddon, took to social media on Thursday to express his shock and frustration as he entered day six of a quarantine which has left him unable to leave his single hotel room except for socially distanced training. This is despite recording more than 10 negative PCR tests for Covid-19 since arriving in Japan.

Five other British athletes are also in the same position and, with only a week now until the start of the Olympic athletics programme, the British Olympic Association admitted on Friday morning that they are making little progress in their representations to the International Olympic Committee.

There is relief, however, that the local authority in Yokohama, where many Team GB athletes have been based for their preparation camp, have granted dispensation for the six athletes to leave their hotel for daily training sessions.

“We are working on it on an almost hourly basis - [but] I’d be lying if I said we were making a whole lot of progress,” said Sir Hugh Robertson, the chair of the British Olympic Association. “Where we have succeeded is to get a concession from the local authority in Yokohama that, even though they are in quarantine, they can actually train.

“There are athletes [from other nations] who are just sitting in their hotel rooms I'm afraid to say at the moment. It's incredibly difficult for them but at least they can get down to Todoroki Stadium and spend a reasonable amount of the day down there. In terms of getting the quarantine lifted, we are right up against it with that. I’d be lying at the moment If I said we are very confident that we are going to get a whole lot of movement.”

A total of six track and field athletes and two Team GB officials were deemed to have come into close contact with a passenger, who subsequently tested positive, on their British Airways flight to Tokyo last week. The positive case was not part of the Team GB delegation.

Team GB had been told that such situations would be dealt with on a case by case and had hoped that the combination of the mass vaccinations of their athletes and daily testing would have ensured some leeway on the 14-day quarantine. “The rules we are operating under have changed on an almost daily basis in the run up to this,” said Roberston. “Where we have done well is we were incredibly lucky to get in early and form early relationships with the local authorities in places like Yokohama. That has paid benefits.”

The 400m hurdler, Jessie Knight, is also among those athletes who are isolating and she is due to race in her first heat next Saturday. Team GB have a plan to get all six athletes to the start-line for their events, whether that is direct from the nearby preparation camp or, if their days in quarantine are complete, from the Olympic Village itself. The total number of Games-related Covid-19 cases passed 100 on Friday as tens of thousands of athletes, support staff and media continued to arrive in Japan.

No Team GB athletes have tested positive since arriving.

10:36 AM

In the BBC studio

Hosts Alex Scott and Clare Balding are teamed with Sir Chris Hoy and Dame Katherine Grainger. Sir Matthew Pinsent is out and about.

Time for the big sell and all sorts of blather about the sanctity of the Games.

10:33 AM

Half an hour to go

The BBC has begun its broadcast, tempering it's 'Greatest Show on Earth' schtick but still giving us enough 'let the Games commence' razzle and indeed dazzle.

People take photos in front of the Tokyo Olympics countdown clock in front of Tokyo station  - ANDRONIKI CHRISTODOULOU/REUTERS
People take photos in front of the Tokyo Olympics countdown clock in front of Tokyo station - ANDRONIKI CHRISTODOULOU/REUTERS

10:25 AM

Ben Bloom reports from the stadium

After much testing, sanitising and masking up, I've finally made it into the Olympic Stadium for the Tokyo Olympics to officially begin.

There are a fair few hundred - potentially thousand - people lining the streets outside the perimeter of the stadium but none are allowed in. The overwhelming majority were excitedly taking photos of anyone fortunate enough to be able to cross the threshold, but there were a notable few protesting the fact that the Games are even taking place.

Looking around the stadium, which has been renovated at great cost and looks an absolute picture, it is impossible to feel anything but great shame that all the seats are empty.

This will be the first Olympics taking place solely for television. For the people of Tokyo they may as well be held on the other side of the world.

10:17 AM

Today's tone is 'sombre'

Reports the BBC and it will dominate the opening ceremony.

Given that one thing we do know about Emperor Naruhito is that he is a keen viola player, it probably wouldn't be appropriate to do a couple of viola gags ...

How can you tell if a viola player is out of tune? You can see the bow moving.

And

How do you keep your violin from being stolen? Put it in a viola case.

10:14 AM

In his father's and grandfather's footsteps

Emperor Naruhito will declare the Tokyo Olympics open at some point this afternoon, reprising the role of his grandfather who opened the last Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and his father who opened the Nagano Games in 1998.

The head of the Imperial Household Agency said late last month that Emperor Naruhito "appears concerned" about the possibility the Olympic Games could cause the coronavirus to spread as feared by many members of the public.

While the 61-year-old emperor's concern was framed as the official's impression rather than something he explicitly expressed, the rare revelation into the monarch's thinking stirred speculation he had worries about the holding of the Olympics during the pandemic.

France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) meeting with Japan's Emperor Naruhito (R) - AFP via Getty Images
France's President Emmanuel Macron (L) meeting with Japan's Emperor Naruhito (R) - AFP via Getty Images

The Olympic Charter, however, stipulates that the Games be proclaimed open by the head of state of the host country, meaning his presence is required.

The head of the International Olympic Committee met with the emperor on Thursday and assured him organisers were doing their utmost not to bring infections into the country.

The Oxford-educated monarch is expected to attend the ceremony without Empress Masako or other members of the imperial family, after organisers banned spectators.

The Olympic charter also specifies the exact wording to be used for opening, including the word "celebrate".

There has been speculation that because of the pandemic, the emperor will use a more neutral word in Japanese that can still be translated as "celebrate" in English.

10:02 AM

Inside the Olympic Stadium

It's all looking a bit bleak:

Olympic Games 2020 Opening Ceremony, Tokyo, Japan -  CIRO FUSCO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Olympic Games 2020 Opening Ceremony, Tokyo, Japan - CIRO FUSCO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

09:53 AM

Elsewhere in the city, the protests continue

Anti-Olympics protesters march with banners through Shibuya district in Tokyo - Kyodo News via AP
Anti-Olympics protesters march with banners through Shibuya district in Tokyo - Kyodo News via AP

09:49 AM

Only a thousand VIPs will attend the opening ceremony

Everyone else is kept to the perimeter, the so-called 'ring of steel' as the BBC's Dan Roan shows:

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

09:40 AM

Who will light the cauldron?

Given that Naomi Osaka's opening match in the women's singles has been rescheduled from tomorrow, there has to be a good chance that the winner of four grand slam titles will be given the honour.

But not necessarily: for the 1964 Games, the organisers chose Yoshinori Sakai, a runner but not yet of Olympic pedigree who had been born in Hiroshima on Aug 6 1945, the day the atom bomb was dropped on the city. He was proof, he said, 'of the high hopes Japan places in the younger generation.'

In the 1972 Winter Olympics at Sapporo, they chose Hideki Takada, a student with no winter sports background. Twenty-six years later they finally asked an Olympic athlete, Midori Ito, the figure skating silver medallist from the 1992 Games.

09:32 AM

Tokyo Games mascots in flowers

People wearing face masks stand before trees cut in the shape of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mascots in Tokyo, Japan, 22 July 2021. Just a day before the opening ceremony, officials announced 1,979 new COVID-19 cases in the Japanese capital, the highest figure since January - FRANCK ROBICHON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People wearing face masks stand before trees cut in the shape of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mascots in Tokyo, Japan, 22 July 2021. Just a day before the opening ceremony, officials announced 1,979 new COVID-19 cases in the Japanese capital, the highest figure since January - FRANCK ROBICHON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Miraitowa, in blue, is the Olympics mascot. According to the official Games' press release: 'It is a tribute to both the respected tradition and modern innovation of Japanese culture. Miraitowa has a personality inspired by the Japanese proverb, “learn from the past and develop new ideas”. It is cheerful and remarkably athletic, with a very strong sense of integrity. It has a special power to instantly teleport anywhere it wants.

The name is derived from the Japanese words "mirai", meaning “future”, and "towa", meaning “eternity”'.

Someity 'is quite a cool character, with mighty powers and cherry blossom tactile sensors. It has a calm and quiet presence, guided by great inner strength, but can display superpowers that embody the toughness and determination of the Paralympic athletes.

The name comes from "Someiyoshino" — a popular type of cherry blossom — and the phrase "so mighty".'

09:21 AM

Good morning

An opening ceremony bedevilled by one of its architects being exposed as telling a horrific joke mocking victims of the Holocaust in the past, one of its composers having admitted with some nonchalance to effectively torturing classmates with learning difficulties, a pandemic-struck city, a host populace that would rather the Games were not taking place there despite the bowel-shrivelling levels of investment, the constant threat of being forced into 14 days of self-isolation for the athletes, a heatwave and a possible typhoon on the way ...

Welcome to the Olympics!

We love an opening ceremony but this will be like no other ... and sadly, in the absence of your usual guide, Alan Tyers, you're lumbered with me.

09:10 AM

Build up to the opening ceremony

That's all from me this morning but my esteemed colleague Rob Bagchi is taking over and will guide you through to the ceremony.

Enjoy!

09:07 AM

Olympic Torch Relay for the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021

In 2019, The Telegraph video team visited Japan to cover how the country was preparing to host the games in 2020. In this video, we take a look at the hopes and dreams the 2020 Tokyo games were meant to represent, how the Olympic torch was made and examine how the country feels about the Olympics now.

09:01 AM

Can Andy Murray win a third Olympic gold medal?

Murray - GETTY IMAGES
Murray - GETTY IMAGES
Andy Murray Joe Salisbury - GETTY IMAGES
Andy Murray Joe Salisbury - GETTY IMAGES

08:50 AM

Activists stage anti-Olympics rally

Olympics - GETTY IMAGES
Olympics - GETTY IMAGES

08:47 AM

VIPs arriving in Tokyo

Olympics - REUTERS
Olympics - REUTERS
Olympics - REUTERS
Olympics - REUTERS

08:39 AM

Homeless people to be removed from Olympic venues

Hundreds of homeless people across central Tokyo have reportedly been given eviction notices ahead of the opening ceremony.

The move appears to mark the final phase of Tokyo metropolitan government’s attempts to remove homeless people who are based near Olympic venues and offices on the eve of the games.

The Asahi Shimbun newspaper cited the example of one 62-year-old man who lives on the street near Tokyo metropolitan government’s offices in Shinjuku, who was reportedly given a note asking him to remove his belongings, due to Olympics-related events.

There were also reports of signs being pinned up in areas where homeless people are often based, asking them to leave the area with their belongings by this week.

Tsukuroi Tokyo Fund, a support group, told local media that the authorities have clamped down on homeless people across the city since 2013, the year Tokyo was named host city of the 2020 Olympics.

Homelessness is deeply stigmatised in Japanese society. Homeless communities are generally less visible in Tokyo than in many other cities around the world, with most avoiding begging and sticking to hidden urban pockets.

Official studies suggest that homelessness rates have hit record lows in Japan, with government figures stating earlier this year that there were only 862 in Tokyo and 3,824 nationwide.

However, there are concerns that the actual figure is significantly higher, with reports that as many as 4,000 people without permanent residences are slipping through the net and sleeping at cheap internet and manga cafes.

By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo

08:26 AM

Gomboeva treated for heat exhaustion

Scorching summer temperatures continued to heat up Tokyo on Friday during the countdown to the opening ceremony, causing one Russian archer to faint at a qualifying event.

With temperatures across the city rising to around 33C, Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed while checking her final archery scores although she quickly recovered after staff placed bags of ice on her head .

tokyo-olympics-opening-ceremony-live-2020-news-2021 - GETTY IMAGES
tokyo-olympics-opening-ceremony-live-2020-news-2021 - GETTY IMAGES

Soaring temperatures have enveloped Tokyo most of this week, prompting Olympic officials to install cooling tents and mist fans amid growing concerns over heatstroke for athletes and volunteers alike.

Salt candies and ice creams were available on tap for volunteers, while Tokyo 2020 staff have been given devices to wear in their ears to track their temperatures and the risk of heatstroke, with alerts issued via smartphones.

Steps to assist athletes cool down during the games are no less rigorous, with the New Zealand delegation reportedly bringing ice vests, slushie machines and misting fans to help minimise the risk of overheating.

Australian archer Alice Ingley shared her own cooling tactics on Friday's qualifier, as crowds gathered in the shade of trees: “Cooling vest, slushies, fans, umbrellas, just all that, just try to keep out of the heat as much as possible. And drink water as much as possible.”

Tokyo’s summers are notoriously hot, with soaring temperatures and energy-sapping humidity levels causing nearly 200 heat-related deaths across the Japanese capital last summer.

The scorching seasonal heat is so well known in Japan that there is even a word to describe so-called “summer sickness”: natsubate. Eating eel – known to boost energy-levels - and tucking into syrupy shaved ice treats called kakigori are among ways Tokyoites often attempt to cool down and fight natsubate.

By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo

08:17 AM

Covid cases in Tokyo

Tokyo reported 1,359 COVID-19 cases on Friday as the infection spreads in the Japanese capital.

On Thursday, Tokyo reported 1,979 cases, the highest level since January.

08:07 AM

The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo

Some beautiful aerial images coming through of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo...

Olympics - AFP
Olympics - AFP
Tokyo Olympics - AFP
Tokyo Olympics - AFP

07:52 AM

Opening ceremony explainer

Not long to go before the opening ceremony begins. Everything you need to know is right here...

07:45 AM

Naomi Osaka switch up

Naomi Osaka's first-round match at the Olympic tennis tournament was removed from the schedule for Saturday less than 24 hours before it was due to be played.

The four-time grand slam champion is making a return to action after taking an eight-week break for mental health reasons, withdrawing from the French Open and missing Wimbledon altogether.

She had been due to take on China's Zheng Saisai in the first match on the Ariake Tennis Park's main stadium only for a revised schedule to be released on Friday showing the clash replaced by one between sixth seed Iga Swiatek and Germany's Mona Barthel.

Organisers told the PA news agency the change had been made at the request of Tokyo 2020, prompting speculation Osaka was to be involved in the Opening Ceremony on Friday evening.

The 23-year-old, who was born in Osaka but grew up in the United States, is one of Japan's most high-profile sporting stars and best medal hopes. PA

07:32 AM

The topless Tongan returns for Tokyo 2020

Great news for fans of Pita Taufatofua, who memorably waved the Tonga flag bare-chested in the opening of Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018 - he's back!

Read more here.

Pita Taufatofua - AFP
Pita Taufatofua - AFP

07:13 AM

Helen Glover: Bidding for glory five years and three children after her last Olympics

Pippa Field, who will be reporting for us in Tokyo, profiles one of Team GB's biggest medal hopes in the video below. Take a watch!

07:00 AM

Fethi Nourine withdraws from Judo

Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine has withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics before competing after the draw set him on course for a possible match-up against an Israeli opponent.

Nourine was set to face Sudanese judoka Mohamed Abdalrasool on Monday for his first bout, and would have taken on Israeli Tohar Butbul in the next round. Speaking to an Algerian television station late Thursday, Nourine said his political support for the Palestinian cause made it impossible for him to compete against an Israeli.

tokyo-olympics-opening-ceremony-live-2020-news-2021 - AP
tokyo-olympics-opening-ceremony-live-2020-news-2021 - AP

"We worked a lot to reach the Olympics... but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this," he said, adding that his decision was "final".

It is not the first time that Nourine has withdrawn from competition to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, after he pulled out of the 2019 world championships in Tokyo. Iranian judokas have also come under fire for refusing to compete against their Israeli counterparts.

By Jessica Winch

06:41 AM

Athletes facing full 14-day quarantine as Team GB hit impasse in talks

Team GB are becoming increasingly resigned to six athletes who were identified as close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case being forced to self-isolate for the full 14 days up until the very eve of their Olympic competitions.

The 3,000m steeplechaser, Zak Seddon, took to social media on Thursday to express his shock and frustration as he entered day six of a quarantine which has left him unable to leave his single hotel room except for socially distanced training.

This is despite recording 11 negative PCR tests for Covid-19. Five other British athletes are also in the same position and, with only a week now until the start of the Olympic athletics programme, the British Olympic Association admitted on Friday morning that they are making little progress in their representations to the International Olympic Committee.

There is relief, however, that the local authority in Yokohama, where Team GB athletes have their preparation camp, have granted dispensation for those athletes to get out for daily training sessions.

“We are working on it on an almost hourly basis - [but] I’d be lying if I said we were making a whole lot of progress,” said Sir Hugh Robertson, the chair of the British Olympic Association. “Where we have succeeded is to get a concession from the local authority in Yokohama that, even though they are in quarantine, they can actually train.

“There are athletes [from other nations] who are just sitting in their hotel rooms I'm afraid to say at the moment. At least ours can train. I know it's rotten for them, it's incredibly difficult for them but at least they can get down to Todoroki stadium and spend a reasonable amount of the day down there. In terms of getting the quarantine being lifted, we are right up against it with that.

"We’ve tried the various committees, we've tried direct approaches - I’d be lying at the moment If I said we are very confident that we are going to get a whole lot of movement. At least we have a road map to get them to the start line in order to compete in their event. They are better than most but they are not where we would want them to be.”

A total of six track and field athletes and two Team GB officials were deemed to have come into close contact with a passenger on their British Airways flight to Tokyo last week who subsequently tested positive. The positive case was not part of the Team GB delegation.

Team GB had been told that such situations would be dealt with on a case by case and had believed that the combination of the mass vaccinations of their athletes and the daily testing would have ensured some leeway on the 14-day quarantine.

“The rules we are operating under have changed on an almost daily basis in the run up to this,” said Roberston.

“It has sometimes been difficult to find a way through it. Where we have done well is we were incredibly lucky to get in early and form early relationships with the local authorities in places like Yokohama. The process of getting in early has paid benefits.”

The 400m hurdler, Jessie Knight, is also among those athletes who are self isolating.

By Jeremy Wilson

06:26 AM

What's on our website

Plenty of things to read this morning as we build up to the ceremony. Take a look...

06:04 AM

Morning

Great Britain's archers and rowers got their Olympic campaigns underway ahead of the official opening of the Games later today but the realities of competing in the intense Tokyo heat were laid bare when a Russian archer fainted from the conditions.

Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed as she checked her final scores after the women's individual ranking round and required assistance from staff and team mates who put bags of ice on her head to cool her down.

The heat had been just one of the concerns leading up these Games with organisers moving the marathon and race-walking events to the cooler city of Sapporo. Temperatures in Tokyo on Friday for the morning archery heats were above 30 degrees with humidity also a factor.

"It's the first time that I remember something like this happening," Gomboeva's coach Stanislav Popov said. "In Vladivostok, where we were training before this, the weather was similar. But the humidity here had an influence."

Teammate Ksenia Perova added that Gomboeva was feeling better after doctors gave her water and was cleared to travel back with the team to the Olympic village. Gomboeva qualified 45th out of 64 archers. The round was won by South Korea's An San with a new Olympic record score of 680.

Sarah Bettles was the highest ranking Brit in 15th with a score of 653 with Bryony Pitman 38th and Naomi Folkard 47th. It meant Britain earned a ninth-place seeding for Sunday's team event where they will take on Italy in the 1/8 eliminations.

Temperatures were equally hot at the Sea Forest Waterway for the morning rowing heats but Great Britain's Vicky Thornley, who undertook her post-race media duties sporting an ice vest and wristbands and sheltering under an umbrella, was able to made a strong start in the women's single scull, winning her heat by nearly three seconds.

"It's obviously hot but I felt cool on the start line, which was good. You cross the line and it's pretty warm but we all knew it was going to be like this," said Thornley, the first British female single sculler to gain Olympic selection for 20 years.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

British duo Graeme Thomas and John Collins made it through to the semi-finals in the double sculls, finishing second in their heat behind the Dutch, but both the men's and women's quadruple sculls will have to go through the repechage.

The men's archery individual ranking round, which features Britain, is the final live sporting action of the day before the Opening Ceremony starts at midday BST.

By Pippa Field in Tokyo