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Opening Ceremony Kicks Off in Near-Empty Tokyo Stadium

Jill Biden is among the few VIPs present
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2021 6:16 AM CDT
Opening Ceremony Kicks Off in Near-Empty Tokyo Stadium
First lady of the United States Jill Biden arrives at the Olympic Stadium, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.   (Dylan Martinez/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – After a yearlong delay caused by COVID-19, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are finally underway—but with the pandemic still raging, the opening ceremony is being held in a near-empty stadium. The $1.5 billion stadium built for the Games can hold up to 70,000, but only 950 VIPs were present as the ceremony began Friday, CNN reports. Things kicked off at 6:55am ET with an orchestral performance followed by a montage of athletes who were forced into training in isolation, reports the Guardian.

  • The few foreign dignitaries present include First Lady Jill Biden, who arrived in Tokyo Thursday, and French President Emmanuel Macron, who arrived Friday for a visit that will include talks with IOC officials on the 2024 Paris Olympics, AFP reports.
  • The ceremony will be re-aired on NBC at 7:30pm ET Friday and again at 1:38am Saturday. CBS has a full timetable of Olympic coverage.

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  • Hundreds of fans who gathered outside the stadium and along sidewalks waved at passing vehicles with Olympic logos, the AP reports. Elsewhere in Tokyo, which hit a six-month high in COVID cases Thursday, around 50 protesters demanding the cancellation of the Games gathered outside a government building.
  • There will be 18 straight days packed with events starting Saturday, but Friday wasn't completely sports-free, reports the New York Times. Rowing and archery heats began hours before the opening ceremony.
(Read more Tokyo Olympics stories.)

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