September 17, 2021
Tokyo Olympics officially begin
TOKYO - The long-awaited 2020-21 Summer Olympics have officially kicked off. The Games were postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Following strict anti-virus protocols, more than 11,000 athletes from about 200 countries and territories are streaming in to compete in a record 33 sports, NHK World News reported.

The opening ceremony was held on Friday evening, starting with a performance dedicated to athletes who pushed themselves to the limit during preparations despite the pandemic.

The athletes wore face masks and were told to keep social distance as they marched. All teams were encouraged to have one female and one male athlete to bear the flags to symbolize gender equality.

A team made up of refugees is participating in the summer Games for the second time, following Rio de Janeiro.
Athletes from Russia are taking part as representatives of the Russian Olympic Committee. That country is banned from sending athletes to major international competitions due to its history of systematic doping.

The ceremony and most of the competitions are being held without spectators. The number of officials attending the opening ceremony was reduced to about 950.

The head of the organizing committee, Hashimoto Seiko, expressed her respect and gratitude for healthcare workers and all other people who are working every day to overcome the global challenge of the pandemic.

Emperor Naruhito officially declared the opening of the Games, before the Olympic cauldron was lit by tennis star Osaka Naomi.

Organizers say over 100 people involved in the Games, including at least 11 athletes, have tested positive in Japan.

The competitions will run through August 8 under strict anti-virus measures inside and outside the venues.

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