Tokyo 2020 Olympics live: Build-up to opening ceremony as Mohamed Sbihi Team GB’s first Muslim flagbearer

The Tokyo Olympics By the Numbers

Millions around the world will tune in to see the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday, which has become embroiled in controversy after the director was forced out just one day before the event. Kentaro Kobayashi was dismissed over past comments that “ridiculed the painful facts of history,” according to Tokyo 2020 organisers, which were in fact anti-Semitic comments made during a 1998 comedy act about the Holocaust. Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada, who has composed the music for the opening and closing ceremonies, has also stepped down amid allegations of previous bullying behaviour resurfaced.

Because of Covid-19 restrictions the ceremony at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium will see athletes from 200 countries parade in an almost empty stadium, in front of around 1,000 officials and dignitaries, rather than 68,000 fans. Japan’s Emperor Naruhito will attend and the declare the Olympics, but he will not be joined by any other member of the imperial family. First lady Jill Biden will also be in attendance.“I think It will be a moment of joy and relief when entering the stadium,” said IOC president Thomas Bach earlier this week.

In addition to Friday’s ceremony, there will also be qualifiers in the archery and rowing competitions. Follow all the latest news and updates below.


Murray seeking his ‘best achievement’ of third Olympic gold

Andy Murray insists winning a third Olympic gold medal would be his ‘best achievement’ as he attempts to upset the odds in Tokyo.

The Olympic champion from London and Rio said: “For me, it would be probably my best achievement.

“If I could do that after everything that’s gone on the last years and stuff,” he told the assembled media on Thursday.

“I’m motivated for that reason alone. I still believe I can do that. I still believe that it’s possible.”

Andy Murray seeking ‘best achievement’ of third Olympic gold against the odds at Tokyo 2020

A double Olympic gold medalist – but can he upset the odds for a third?

What you need to know about Tokyo 2020

What do you want to know about Tokyo 2020? Check out our guide to the Games where all of these questions will be answered.

  • When is the opening ceremony?
  • How can I watch the opening ceremony?
  • When do the events start?
  • What is the schedule for the Games and which sports are involved?
  • When do the Games end?
  • When are the Paralympics?
  • What is the time difference?

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony in the UK

The Games will officially get underway at the National Stadium in Tokyo

Controversial Olympic opening ceremonies

Although there have been a few preliminary events, the opening ceremony truly marks the start of the games and often in spectacular fashion. At both the summer and winter games, there is often a lot of anticipation for what sort of show the host city will put on and if they get it right, it can really get the games off to a positive and optimistic start.

However, for all the awe and wonder that the opening ceremony is supposed to inspire it doesn’t always work like that. On more than one occasion technical faults and odd directorial decisions have created talking points and controversy that overshadow the entire event. Here we take a look at seven of the most bizarre and controversial moments:

The 7 most bizarre and controversial moments from Olympic opening ceremonies

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is almost here and it would be an understatement to say that it has taken a long time to get here.

What to expect from the opening ceremony

After such a precarious build-up, the opening ceremony will officially mark the beginning of the Olympic Games in Tokyo. Here is what you can expect from the spectacle at the National Stadium.

Who is going to watch the ceremony?

Emperor Naruhito is reportedly due to be the guest of honour but he will be joined by only a handful of VIPs. The respective heads of Toyota and Panasonic, among others, have declared that they will stay away due to concerns over the public’s negative perception of the Games. Media will also be permitted to cover the ceremony but members of the public have been barred.

Will the traditional athletes’ parade take place?

Yes, but in vastly reduced numbers. Less than 30 members of Team GB are expected to march, and the confirmed numbers are barely bigger for Australia and Canada respectively. Many athletes with imminent competitions prefer to stay away, but the number of absentees has been swelled by those who have legitimate concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Why are countries allowed to name two flag bearers?

The decision to propose one male and one female flag bearer was made by the International Olympic Committee in a bid to promote its message of equality. In a statement the IOC said it was sending “an extremely strong message to the world that gender balance is a reality at the Olympic Games”. In addition, nations with smaller delegations have been strongly urged to name at least one male and one female athlete in their squads. It is not mandatory for nations to name two flag bearers; in those that do, the two flag bearers will share one flag.

What form will the ceremony take?

Japanese media say the ceremony will be “solemn”, in keeping with the ambivalent – at best – attitude to the Games in Tokyo, and even that Emperor Naruhito will refrain from using the word ‘celebrate’. That means it is unlikely any big-name musical stars will be flown in for the occasion. Besides, the ceremony has been hit by a series of scandals, culminating in the dismissal of its director Kentaro Kobayashi on the eve of the event due to alleged anti-Semitic jokes he made during a comedy routine in 1998.

Swiss hurdler out of Tokyo Olympics after doping ban

Swiss athlete Kariem Hussein, who specialises in 400m hurdle, is out of the Tokyo Olympics after he was given a nine-month doping suspension.

The 32-year-old tested positive for a banned stimulant earlier this month, the Swiss Olympic Committee said in a statement. “The presence of the prohibited substances nikethamide and the metabolite N-ethylnicotinamide had been demonstrated to the athlete in the doping test. The suspension has been in effect since 16 July, 2021, the beginning of the provisional suspension and is effective for all sports and all functions in sports.”

Reacting to the news, Hussein tweeted: “My dream of the Olympic Games in Tokyo is over. I was banned for 9 months. One lozenge (Gly-Coramin) contained an illegal substance. I made a mistake with grave consequences. I’m so sorry. But if you know me, you know I’ll keep going.”

Twitter has an Olympics emoji

Twitter has also dived into the Tokyo Olympics hype as the social media giant added the Olympics emoji to its platform ahead of the opening ceremony.

The emoji, which looks like an Olive wreath, will be triggered when a user types #Olympics and is available in over 30 different languages.

Olympics Torch Relay concludes in Tokyo

The Olympic Torch Relay has now concluded after a final event at the Citizen’s plaza in Shinjuku city, Tokyo.

A ceremony marking the torch’s arrival in Tokyo was attended by the city’s governor Koike Yuriko and the mayor of Shinjuku-ku, Yoshizumi Kenichi.

Kabuki actor Nakamura Kankuro VI ignited the Olympic Flame on a special celebration cauldron.

The torch will inevitably play a key role in the opening ceremony for the Games later today, when it will be taken from Shinjuku to the Olympic Stadium.

Russian athletes suspected of doping kept away from Tokyo Olympics

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) on Friday said that several Russian athletes suspected of doping have been kept away from the Tokyo Olympics. The suspicions are based on evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory that was shut down in 2015.

The anti-doping agency will, however, be forced to watch Russian athletes don uniforms in their country’s color and compete in the Games after having received soft sanctions over the doping scandal.

Russia was originally banned from the event in December 2019 for four years but the Court of Arbitration for Sport halved the sanctions late last year.

The team of 335 Russian athletes accredited to participate in the games are still not allowed to compete under their own flag but can wear their tri-color uniforms instead of the neutral ones initially imposed by WADA.

Russian archer passes out due to scorching heat

A Russian archer passed out this afternoon amid the scorching heat in Tokyo during a qualifying round.

Svetlana Gomboeva fainted as she checked her final scores. She quickly regained consciousness and was given assistance by staff and teammates who put bags of ice on her head for her to cool down.

Her coach Stanislav Popov told the media that this is the first time that she fainted. “In Vladivostok, where we were training before this, the weather was similar. But humidity played a role here,” he said, adding that they hope she will be okay.

Her teammate Ksenia Perova later told the reporters that Gomboeva was recovering and will be able to resume the competition.

US water polo captain to skip opening ceremony

Jesse Smith, the captain of the US men’s water polo team, has said he will skip the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday after the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) put restrictions on the number of players from his team who could participate in the festivities.

The water polo roster for the Olympics consists of 13 players, of whom 12 are designated as available for each game. Smith was told by the USOPC that only 12 credentialed athletes could attend the ceremony, he said.

“We tried to keep our team together and change it with every constructive outlet, but no success, and now it’s time to refocus on getting game ready,” he tweeted. “So tonight I am sending my team out there to represent [the United States] proudly and soak up every moment. Let’s go boys!”

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