Opening ceremony of virus-delayed Tokyo Olympics begins

Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson / CC BY 2.0

TOKYO (AP) – The Tokyo Games have arrived at last, after a yearlong delay. They’re a multinational showcase of the finest athletes of a world fragmented by disease.

They’re also steeped in the political and medical baggage of the relentless pandemic.

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Japanese are deeply divided on whether they should be taking place. But organizing officials hope an opening ceremony viewed by the world, but by almost no one in the stadium where it occurs, can overcome those hesitations.

The ceremony kicks off two weeks of athletic events that will be held in front of thousands of empty seats, just like the opening.

About 100 of the 613 U.S. athletes descending on Tokyo for the Olympics are unvaccinated, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s medical chief said hours before Friday night’s Opening Ceremony.

Medical director Jonathan Finnoff said some 600 of the American athletes had filled out their health histories as they prepared for the trip, and estimated 83% had replied they were vaccinated.

The IOC has estimated around 85% of residents of the Olympic Village are vaccinated; they base that on what each country’s Olympic committee tells them but have not independently verified the number.

The athletes of the Tokyo Olympics were greeted by a few familiar notes at the opening ceremony. An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games served as the soundtrack for the parade of countries.

The arrangement included songs from games developed by SEGA, Capcom and Square Enix. Video game themes are often maligned as annoying earworms, but in Japan, the music that accompanies games is considered an art form.