The Opening Ceremony for this year’s Summer Games — which were delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic — will take place Friday in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.
Usually held in a stadium full of ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will have athletes from across the globe parading in a near empty venue after it was announced that fans would not be allowed to attend because of rising Covid-19 cases in Japan.
“The most difficult part of the process was that the postponement meant a simplification of the ceremonies and the message had to be drastically revised,” said Takayuki Hioki, Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee executive producer of ceremonies.
“After nearly five years of planning, we found ourselves suddenly having to rethink everything. This was the biggest challenge,” said Hioki.
Due to restrictions, only a select number of officials and some dignitaries will be present for the Friday’s ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Hidemasa Nakamura told CNN that about 950 VIPs will take part in the event. The total will include around 800 foreign guests and 150 from Japan, CNN affiliate TV Asahi reported.
Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, who will declare the Olympics open at the ceremony, will be attending without any other member of the imperial family, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
The agency says that the decision was made in keeping with the plans for other Olympic officials who are also attending unaccompanied by their spouses.
With all the struggles and difficulties that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has faced to stage the Games in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, president Thomas Bach believes it will be a moment of “joy and relief.”
“I think It will be a moment of joy and relief when entering the stadium,” Bach said during a news conference.
“A moment of joy in particular for the athletes because I know how much they’re longing for this moment. They can finally be there and can enjoy this moment under very special circumstances. And a feeling of relief because the road to this Opening Ceremony was not the easiest one.”
However as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Tokyo, there will be notable absentees on Friday. Japanese car manufacture Toyota has confirmed its CEO, Akio Toyoda, will not be attending the opening ceremony.
“The motto of the Tokyo 2020 Games is “United by Emotion,” added Hioki.
“We spent a lot of time and energy struggling and what we came up with was ‘achieving personal best,’ ‘unity in diversity,’ ‘connecting to tomorrow’; in other words, the Games vision.
“We have created something with a strong message that will resonate with the audience. It’s more about the emotional connection than the excitement.
“We took the athletes very seriously. We had to make sure the athletes who finally have come from abroad don’t feel anxious, and yet we want them to be energised and ready for competition,” Hioki said.
Marco Balich, a former opening ceremonies executive producer and now a senior adviser to the Tokyo ceremony, told Reuters that Friday’s event will be a “sobering” ceremony.
“Nevertheless with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality,” said Balich, who was in charge of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.