Get up to speed with all the big Tokyo 2020 questions with Simon Burnton’s Olympic primer:
Some cycling news: the men’s road race takes place at 3am BST, 11am local time on Saturday, but one man who won’t be at the start line is Simon Geschke, after the German rider tested positive for Covid-19.
Geschke, who was set to be part of a four-man German team, had been staying away from the Olympic village with a group of other cyclists, all of who have initially tested negative for Covid.
“More than disappointed to miss the Olympics tomorrow but also glad everyone else tested negative,” Geschke wrote on Twitter. “It’s a dark day in my career, but i will be back soon later this year hopefully.”
Thanks Barry, and a shout to your good self for a marathon live-blogging effort. So, what happens now? It’s ten past midnight in Tokyo and officially Day 1 of the Games – we’ll keep you updated with news and global reaction to the opening ceremony, plus what to look out for in the first few days.
Sayōnara. And after all that excitement, it’s time for me to sayt goodbye and take a long lie-down in the darkened room. But while I might pause for some respite, the Guardian’s Olympic blog will do no such thing. Niall McVeigh is next up in the hot-seat.
Before I go, a massive shout-out to my colleague Steven Bloor, who did so much to bring what would have been an otherwise very dreary rolling report to life with all the beautiful photographs from the opening ceremopny that have been added for your viewing pleasure.
There endeth the opening ceremony: Low on bombast but high on a combination of quiet dignity and mawkish schmalz, our opening ceremony closes. It was a very respectful ceremony; one that understandably palled in comparison to previous versions.
Mount Fuji: Tennis champion Naomi Osaka takes the torch from our team of kids and jogs up the steps to the summit of the temporary Mount Fuji that’s been erected in the stadium. Following her recent travails and admissions of mental frailty, who better than her to do the honours? And to be clear, no … it’s you who is crying. Naomi Osaka lights the cauldron, built in the shape of a flower with its petals open. Let the Games begin!
Slowly but surely. We’re getting there. The flame makes its way across the stadium, a doctor and nurse taking temporary possession. They’re loving it! They positively bound towards a seven-times Japanese Paralympian, waving enthusiastically to all present. She hands over to a team of schoolkids.
Our medics are, I’m told by reader Emmling, “from the areas most affected by the 3-11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown ten years ago”.
Another montage: This time it’s of the Olympic torch relay. It’s been a longer one than we’re used too. The montage over, the Olympic flame emerges from the bowels of the studio carried by two Japanese athletes: former wrestler Saori Yoshida and judo player Tadahiro Nomura. They pass it on to a selection of other retired Japanese sporting legends with Ravel’s Bolero as the soundtrack.
Attention returns to the infield area of the stadium. To lively piano accompaniment, a cartoonish Japanese super hero sporting what looks like a Samurai sword on his waist appears. Where is he going? Where is this going?
It’s time to light the lights: A Japanese comedian whose name I must confess escaped me is shown messing about in the control room with a former figure skater as he switches on lights in various Olympic venues around the city and country. It’s a good montage and now … there’s just one light left to go.
Dan speaks the truth: And I’d like to think I deserve at least a bronze. They only have to talk over pictures thewir BBC audience can see … and can just say nothing during some of the more bewildering performances of interpretative dance.
Time for another montage: Because there’s always time for another montage, right? This time it’s a series of 50 pictograms coming to life to represent each of the different Olympic sports. I won’t lie, it’s difficult to explain, even by the standards of opening ceremonies but there are now two performers dressed as blue and white stickpeople out there having an absolute whale of a time going through their various carefully choreographed motions.
The release of doves: Thousands of paper doves are released from on high. Doves from above, if you will. A niche gag for Vic & Bob fans there.
The Olympic flag: To orchestral accompaniment (those musicians must be exhausted by now!) assorted members of Japan’s defence forces receive the flag and march up some steps, where they hoist it on a pole next to that flying the colours of Japan. Cue: the Olympic anthem.
Thomas Bach: “The pandemic forced us apart, to keep our distance from each other. To stasy away even from our loved ones. This separation made this tunnel so dark. But today, wherever in the world you may be we’re united in sharing this moment together. The Olympic flame makes this light shine brighter for all of us.”
He goes on to invite Emperor Naruhito to declare the Games open. The emperor duly obliges and the Olympic flag with its five rings is brought into the stadium. It’s carried by an athglete from each of the five continents represented by the rings, along with a member of the Refugee Olympic team.
Thomas Bach: The IOC chief continues, thanking the Games’ sponsors, many of whom have bent over backwards to distance themselves from the very ceremony he is addressing. Talk turns to solidarity …
Thomas Bach: The IOC boss greets the assembled dignataries and Olympic friends before welcoming to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. “Today is a moment of hope,” he begins. “Yes it is very different but let us cherish this moment. We are all here together.”
Seiko Hashimoto: Still at the podium, with IOC chief Thomas Bach to follow, Seiko is a Japanese politician, former speed skater and track cyclist.
A speech: Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games gives a speech. What a stressful time she must have had in recent years. Peace, love, understanding and the difficulties of staging the games at this difficult time all get a mention. She thanks the athletes for turning up to participate and wishes them all the best.
Hang on! That’s John Legend. And his performance? Well, suffice to say, it’s not the first time John Lennon has been murdered. His memory deserves better than this hammery.
This is impressive: Impressive and a little mawkish. The drones above the stadium form a globe while the kids below begin a rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine. They’re joined on the big screen by assorted more senior singers from around the globe who I should probably recognise but don’t.
“Hang on, wackiness!” observes the BBC’s Andrew Cotter as some cartoonish thespians play out some sort of “skit” ahead of a performance entitled “unity and diversity” performed by some kids. I don’t know about Andrew and Hazel but I have no idea what is going on. I’ll wait for them to let me know. Ah, they’re forming the Tokyo 2020 chequered emblem with giant building blocks. Above the stadium in the night sky, 1,800 illuminated drones replicate the design. That’s some seriously impressive formation flying right there.
The Olympic oath: Five Japanese athletes from assorted sports read the Olympic oath before the Olympic flag is hoisted next to it’s Japanese counterpart. Cue: another cheesy montage …
The Olympic motto: There’s a late addition to the Olympic motto which illuminates the floor in the middle of the arena. It reads: “Faster, higher, stronger, together” and is accompamnied by more pyrotechnics.
Japan: The hosts arrive in their hundreds with Yui Susaki (wrestling) and Rui Hachimura (basketball) given the huge honour of bearing the host nation’s flag at their home games. That’s yer lot as far as the parade is concerned. The last of the formalities are upon us, including – one presumes – more speechifying and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.
The Americans are here! Led by Sue Bird (basketball) and Eddy Alvarez (baseball), the USA march out mob-handed. They’re followed by France and finally …
The orchestral medley: Reader Tom has been busy trying to identify the Japanese video game theme tunes that are soundtracking the parade and he has done a cracking job. “A translation of most of the song list from the article listed earlier,” he says. “Missing ones I couldn’t find the English name for.”
Jordan: We’re into the 190s now, with the end mercifully nigh. They’re followed by Laos and Latvia. Tennis player Jelena Ostapenko, a former French Open champion, and basketball player Agnis Cavars carry the flag for them.
Portugal: Their flag-bearers Telma Monteiro and Nelson Évora dance out excitedly, with Evora looking like he’s trying to wrestle the pole from his team-mate. Next out are Hong Kong, who boast a swimmer with the decidedly Irish name of Siobhan Bernadette Haughey. Her father is Irish and according to Wikipedia, she is a grand-niece of the former Irish prime minister Charles Haughey. He was famojusly fond of the water too and owned his own yacht called Celtic Mist.
Poland: Their athletes walk out, minus the six swimmers their team bosses had to send home earlier this week because they picked too many by mistake. No, really.
On we go: There are no end of endurance events in the Olympics and the opening ceremony parade is arguably the most gruelling of them all. The team of local greeters welcoming each delegation out on to the infield must be exhausted at this stage but their enthusiasm remains undimmed. Many of the athletes are having a well-earned lie-down in the evening heat. Vietnam are the latest to arrive, they’re 157th out of 206.
Vanuatu: Rower Rillo Rii leads out the three-strong Vanuatu team and with a physique like his it’s no surprise he’s elected to go topless with a slathering of oil too. The man is an adonis and was in action out on the water earlier today, so it may be sweat, rather than oil.
More on the Japanese alphabet: “Just wanted to add a slight correction to Hazel’s email,” writes Tom. “While the UK is usually referred to as Igirisu, they walked out in this ceremony under the name ‘Eikoku’, which is a more formal and older name for the UK mostly only used in newspapers today. This is why they were next to countries beginning with E.”
Turkmenistan: Wearing green shirts and white trousers, the athletes of Turkmenistan walk out. With a population of five million people, they have yet to win an Olympic medal.
China: One of the larger teams march out in to the arena and I can reveal they are 109th out of 206. Volleyball player Zhu Ting and taekwondo fighter Zhao Shuai bear their flag with pride.
The teams continue to come out thick and fast. And thank you to reader Mikako Onozaka, who emailed a minute ago to say she reckons we’re just past halfway. Halfway?!?!?!
“Rwanda, Lesotho and Lebanon will be the last to come out in alphabetical order, followed by the US, France, and Japan,” he tells me. And if, like me, you are ashamed of your geographical ignorance – from Wikipedia: “Lesotho, a high-altitude, landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa, is crisscrossed by a network of rivers and mountain ranges including the 3,482m-high peak of Thabana Ntlenyana.”
Jamaica: Sprinting legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and boxer Ricardo Brown lead out Team Jamaica. Such is the disparity in their heights, the diminutive Fraser-Pryce leaves the flag-bearing duties to the giant Brown, electing instead to link the crook of his arm.
An email: “My wife and I have only recognised a few tunes (most notably Sonic, Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts) but the Japanese media has reported on the game list here,” writes Sophie. Google might throw up a few interesting translations.
Every day’s a schoolday: “I don’t know if anyone has already emailed in about this, but as Japanese doesn’t have an ‘alphabet’ as such, it looks like they’re using the order for the hiragana/katakana syllabary, which they use to spell syllabically all the countries,” writes Hazel.
“This means we start with the vowels (a, i, u, e, o) and then the consonants followed by the vowels in that order (k/g, s/z, t/d, n, h/b/p, m, y, r, w). Any countries which have a Japanese name (including the UK, ‘Igirisu’) will fit in at the relevant place, presumably. Any scholars of Japanese feel free to correct me! Hope this helps.”
And if any scholars of Japaenese could let me know if we’re getting anywhere near the end of this parade, that would also help – I need to limit what passes for my material accordingly. Kosovo are the latest to march out on to the infield.
Australia: “Sixty-three Australian athletes have marched out into the Olympic Stadium, led by flag bearers Patty Mills and Cate Campbell,” writes Kieran Pender, who is there to see them. “Mills, an Australian of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage, is the first Indigenous Australian to carry the flag at an Olympic Games. It is a symbolic moment for the country, which has a sad history of discriminating against its Indigenous population.”
An email: With regard to the arrival of the athletes being soundtracked by an orchestral medley of video games soundtracks, Karen Bridgen writes.
“My son and I are trying to play ‘Name That Game’,” she says. “The combination of orchestral music and people talking all over it is making it almost impossible. Someone needs to do a list ASAP.”
I’m afraid I’m no gamer and haven’t been for some decades, Karen. Unless the theme music of Bubble Bobble, Super Bomberjack, Tiger Woods Golf, Metro Cross or Gorf are played, I won’t get any of them.
Kazakhstan: The infield continues to fill up as the Kazakhstan delegation march out wearing turquoise trews with slightly darker blazers. Next up it’s Qatar.
Due to the herculean efforts of those on our picture desk, you are now invited to look at what actually happened during the opening ceremony and laugh at how little relation it bears to what I described happening in this all-singing, all-dancing gallery.
Team GB emerge: Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Sbihi lead out the British delegation. Just 22 of their army are present in the stadium tonight. They’re all looking quite smart in navy blazers with striped sleeves over white shirts, with greyish whitish trousers. Then again, they may be ludicrously untrendy – I have no sense of style. Social media will judge them and possibly judge them harshly.
Uganda: Out they come dressed wonderfully in red and gold.
“The mention of rowing earlier reminds me of one of my favorite stories of this Olympics so far,” writes Kari Tulinus. “Rower Kathleen Noble, who was born in Uganda to Irish missionaries and grew up there, is representing the country of her birth at these Olympics. She didn’t qualify directly for the single sculls quarter-finals this morning, but did well enough to earn a second try in the repechage, setting a national record in the process.”
Team GB: They’re due out 28th and we’re getting through the various countries at an uncharacteristically fast and merciful clip.
The order: With the exception of Greece, who traditionally march out first, the nations are being introduced in the order of the Japanese alphabet … which I don’t know. Anyway, whatever the order, Italy are the latest to emerge and are giving Argentina a run for their money in the skittishness stakes. The more sombre and considerably smaller Iraqi delegation, comprised of five people, follow them.