Except the Tokyo opening ceremony is mired in controversy after the show’s director and songwriter stepped down.
Director Kentaro Kobayashi was fired on Thursday over past comments that “ridiculed the painful facts of history,” according to Tokyo 2020 organizers. Local media said he made anti-Semitic comments in a comedy of 1998 on the Holocaust.
Kobayashi then apologized for his comments in a statement.
“Indeed, as noted, in the video software released in 1998 to feature young comedians, a sketch script I wrote contained extremely inappropriate expression,” the comedian added.
“I understand that my foolish choice of words at the time was a mistake, and I regret it,” Kobayashi said, adding that he was grateful to have been able to participate in the ceremony.
Earlier this week, the composer of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 Olympics. – Japanese musician Keigo Oyamada – announced his intention to step down after old interviews of bullying behavior resurfaced .
Oyamada – who is also known by the stage nickname Cornelius – faced a backlash on social media after comments made in the 1990s with Japanese magazine Rockin’On Japan recently started circulating online. In the comments, he described abusing his apparently disabled classmates at school.
Put on a show
In 2012, Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle created an opening ceremony featuring David Beckham in a boat, red double-decker buses, and even Queen Elizabeth II jumping from a helicopter with James Bond.
In 2016, Rio’s opening ceremony was bright and vibrant in a celebration of Brazilian multiculturalism and culture, with segments devoted to climate change and conservation.
Now is the time for Tokyo and Japan to put on a show to the world watching them.
The opening ceremony for this year’s Summer Games – which have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic – will take place on July 23 at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium.
Usually held in a stadium filled with ecstatic fans, this year’s ceremony will see athletes from around the world parading through a nearly empty venue after it was announced that fans would not be allowed to attend due to the increase. of 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, executive producer of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee ceremonies.
“After almost five years of planning, we suddenly found ourselves rethinking everything. It was the biggest challenge,” Hioki said.
Due to the restrictions, only a small number of officials and dignitaries will be in attendance for Friday’s ceremony.
Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Hidemasa Nakamura told CNN that around 950 VIPs will attend the event. The total will include around 800 foreign guests and 150 Japanese guests, CNN affiliate TV Asahi reported.
Japanese Emperor Naruhito, who will declare the Olympics open at the ceremony, will attend without any other members of the Imperial Family, according to the Imperial Household Agency.
The agency says the decision was made in accordance with the plans of other Olympic officials who are also participating unaccompanied by their spouses.
With all the struggles and difficulties the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has faced in hosting the Games amid the ongoing pandemic, President Thomas Bach believes it will be a time of “joy and relief”.
“I think it will be a moment of joy and relief as we enter the stadium,” Bach said at a press conference.
“A moment of joy especially for the athletes because I know how much they are looking forward to this moment. They can finally be here and can enjoy this moment in very special circumstances. And a sense of relief as the path to this ceremony d opening was not the easiest. “
However, as cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in Tokyo, there will be notable absentees on Friday. Japanese automaker Toyota has confirmed that its CEO Akio Toyoda will not attend the opening ceremony.
“The motto of the Tokyo 2020 Games is ‘United through emotion’, added Hioki.
“We spent a lot of time and energy struggling and what we came up with was ‘achieve your best’, ‘unity in diversity’, ‘connect with tomorrow’, in other words, the vision for the Games.
“We’ve created something with a strong message that will resonate with audiences. It’s more about the emotional connection than the excitement.
“We took the athletes very seriously. We had to make sure that the athletes who finally came from abroad do not feel anxious, and yet we want them to be energetic and ready to compete.”
Marco Balich, former executive producer of the opening ceremonies and now senior advisor to the Tokyo ceremony, told Reuters Friday’s event would be a “sobering” ceremony.
“Nonetheless with a beautiful Japanese aesthetic. Very Japanese but also in tune with today’s feeling, reality,” said Balich, responsible for the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.
Tokyo2020’s Twitter account tweeted a preview of what to expect at Friday’s event on Wednesday, teasing a 30-second clip of an orchestra playing music, a drone, and a choreographed dance.
Carry the flag
Carrying your country’s flag as you and your fellow athletes walk into a stadium for an Opening Ceremony is one of the highest honors bestowed on an Olympian.
For the U.S. team, quadruple Olympic basketball gold medalist Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez received the honor after being named their country’s flag bearers for the opening ceremony, announced on Wednesday. the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee.
“It is an incredible honor to be chosen as the flag bearer for the American team,” Bird said in a statement. “I know what that means because I got to see Dawn Staley go through it when she was selected in 2004.
“It is a greater honor than the present moment as you have been selected by your fellow American team athletes to represent the entire delegation, and it will last forever.”
Bird and Alvarez were elected flag bearers by the athletes of the American team. Friday’s opening ceremony will mark the first time that the US delegation will have two flag bearers.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers by my fellow American team athletes for the Opening Ceremony,” said Alvarez.
“As a first generation Cuban American, my story represents the American dream. My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to proudly wave this flag.
“I am grateful for the time I spent with US Speedskating and USA Baseball, as well as all of my teammates, and I am honored to lead Team USA to the Tokyo Olympics.”
For the GB team, Olympic champions Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi have been selected as the team’s flag bearers for Friday’s opening ceremony.
Sailor Mills and rower Sbihi will both defend their Olympic titles won four years ago in Rio.
Junko Ogura, Chie Kobayashi, Gawon Bae, Chandler Thornton contributed to this report.