Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony starts

Tokyo, July 23, (dpa/GNA) - The opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, delayed a year by the coronavirus pandemic, started on Friday all but behind closed doors in the Japanese capital's National Stadium.

Japan's Emperor Naruhito was to formally open the Games after a cultural programme re-enacting a traditional Japanese festival with hundreds of performers, and the traditional parade of nations which was scheduled to last for more than two hours alone.

The 68,000-seat arena was all but empty, with only some VIPs - set to include United States First Lady Jill Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron - sponsors, officials and media allowed in.

Highlights among others were the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in the culmination of the torch relay which also largely took place outside the public eye owing to the pandemic.

The person to light the cauldron is among the best-kept secrets at any Games.

Most nations were set to have two flag bearers instead of one as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is promoting gender equality.

They were to include Jamaican sprint star Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Czech tennis great Petra Kvitova and the face of the Refugee Team, Syria's Yusra Mardini, together with marathon runner Tachlowini Gabriyesos of Eritrea.

More than 11,000 athletes will contest 339 medal events across 50 disciplines in 33 sports until August 8; but a more important number in determining the success or failure of the Games could be Olympics-related coronavirus infections which on Friday reached 106 since July 1.

The vast majority of the competition will take place behind closed doors as Tokyo is under a coronavirus-related state of emergency and a majority of the population opposes the Games being staged now.