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Photos: Tokyo Olympics officially starts with a made-for-TV opening ceremony

·2 min read
Tokyo, Japan, Friday, July 23, 2021 - Naomi Osaka prepares to scale stairs to light the Olympic flame at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony at Olympic Stadium. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)
Naomi Osaka prepares to scale stairs at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo to light the Olympic flame at the end of the opening ceremony. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Dozens of men and women run across the field in a darkened stadium, keeping their distance from one another. They symbolize all the athletes who have trained in solitude during the pandemic.

The Japanese flag comes into view, borne by a small group of young people and healthcare workers. The national anthem is sung as if in prayer.

The Tokyo Olympics began Friday night the only way they could have, with an occasionally somber opening ceremony acknowledging the ravages of COVID-19 that forced this global sports event to be postponed a year.

With new cases surging throughout Japan and much of the country in a state of emergency, there were no fans and few spectators in the stands, mostly broadcast cameras, officials and reporters watching from the upper deck of Olympic Stadium, a gleaming if largely deserted venue in this city’s fashionable Shinjuku district.

Fireworks erupt during the opening ceremony
Fireworks erupt during Friday's opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Team USA walks with a flag
Team USA parades during the ceremony. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Performers surround the Olympic rings on stage
The Olympic rings form a backdrop during an elaborate production number. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A large screen appears over Olympic Stadium
A video recording of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres plays to a stadium void of fans. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dancers are framed inside an Olympic ring
Dancers perform during the event. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
People stand on stage alongside the Japanese flag
The Japanese flag is raised. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dancers carry red streamers onstage
Dancers perform. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A woman stands atop a platform holding a torch
Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Team Colombia members leap into the air as their photo is taken
Team Colombia members jump for a picture. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A man runs on a treadmill onstage surrounded by laser lights
The start of the ceremony reflected the isolated training that many athletes had to do during the pandemic. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Two women recline onstage
Athletes from Sao Tome and Principe relax during the ceremony. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Photo editing by Jacob Moscovitch.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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