Olympics 2021 Opening Ceremony Live: Parade of Athletes, Photos and Updates

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Current time in Tokyo: July 23, 9:07 p.m.

Watching the athletes wrestle with their flags reminds me of those trust exercises you did at summer camp, where you have to learn to cooperate and work together or else you don’t get lunch.

Antigua, Albania and the others begin with ア in Japanese. Australia and Austria begin with オ.

The Australian kit was supposed to include a jacket that included all the names of their 320 gold medalists, but I guess it was too hot so they decided to go in shirtsleeves.

TV programming note: Instead of cutting to commercials during this part of the ceremony, NBC is, bizarrely, showing a split screen. Commercials on one side, with sound; some of the countries’ athletes entering the stadium on the other, without sound.

You’ve got to love the athlete from El Salvador who is gesturing for fans to rise to their feet. Yes, all 12 of us should get out of our seats!

There is definitely a significantly bigger gap between the nations this year, probably in a nod to social distancing. That of course will slow the parade even more.

It wouldn’t be the Olympics without a fashion fail or two, and even before the Games began, there was a brouhaha over the Australian uniforms.

It is not the opening ceremony jackets — those are by Sportscraft, and are pretty traditional (one nice touch: the names of all 320 Australian Olympic gold medalists are scripted on the lining). The issue is with the green and gold origami-inspired looks, which are by Asics, the Japanese sportswear company.

At issue: the fact that Asics sources some of its cotton from the Xinjiang province of China, which is the center of China’s cotton industry, but also where the Chinese government has been accused of human rights violations and forced labor practices as part of its treatment of the local Uyghur Muslim population.

Numerous Western brands have been caught between consumers, who are demanding assurances that their gear has been made responsibly, and the production and market might of China. Asics, apparently, has now joined them.

Initially the brand seemed to release a statement that suggested the company would continue to source cotton from China. According to the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, the brand wrote on its Weibo channel, “Asics has always adhered to the one-China principle and resolutely defended (China’s) national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

A brand spokesman later disavowed the statement, saying it was “unauthorized” and “not our official corporate position on this matter.” The spokesman then confirmed that “the Australian Olympic team uniform does not contain cotton sourced from Xinjiang and was not manufactured in this region.”

On TV, the parade looks as if it is being held under bright lights. But to those in the stadium, the part where the athletes walk around the track takes place in near darkness. Who can really complain? The views of the handful of people here in the stadium has to be a low priority.

The Egyptian delegation came out in suits. Must be very hot on this muggy night.

This feels weirdly like a dress rehearsal for some big high school event.

The woman carrying the flag for the Virgin Islands isn’t taking any chances with Covid. She’s double masked with a face shield. The first face shield I’ve seen tonight.

The Ugandan delegation walks in and it’s hard not to think of the weight lifter, Julius Ssekitoleko, who was sent home after failing to make the team and then escaped for five days from his hotel room at the training camp.

Why is Uganda entering after Indonesia, when this is meant to be done in alphabetical order? Because they come in according to the alphabet of the host country.

Ukraine is really going for the casual vibe: shorts and what look like souvenir T-shirts.

Russia update: A revised list says the team will come out 77th out of the 206 nations. Currently we are up to 24.

Yes, Victor: You have to wonder what athletes are thinking as they walk into this empty stadium. They look disappointed, like they expected to get a puppy for their birthday but got an ugly sweater instead.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Israel looks very featching in form-fitting T-shirts. These are athletes, not members of a yacht club!

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Giorgio Armani designed the Italian team’s formal outfits, as he has every Olympics since 2012, which are officially part of his EA7 Emporio Armani line. The uniforms can look pretty dull, it’s true, especially in the giant arenas where these ceremonies are held, but most of them are chock-full of subtle or even hidden symbolism that mean a lot to the athletes and make all sorts of references to the time and city of the Games.

This year’s version is a pretty good case in point.

For example: The jackets — which are all made of recycled polyester, which may be a trend of these Games — are white, to represent “purity in sport” (that’s according to Armani).

The opening verse of the Italian national anthem, generally known as Fratelli d’Italia, or Brothers of Italy, after the first line, is actually written on the inside lining of each one.

And the graphics symbolize the Japanese flag, done in the Italian tricolor.

That’s fashion diplomacy for you.

If some of this music sounds vaguely familiar, but from where? They’re orchestrated video-game themes.

The athletes are waving at the crowd, as if there actually were a crowd here. You have to feel for them. It’s their big moment and the big cheers they might expect are missing.

Finally a little energy from the Argentinian contingent.

And just as I type that, here comes Aruba, mixing things up with some nice oceanic silk screening.

Many of the athletes are taking selfie videos of themselves as they walk in to the stadium. If you can’t see it live, you can see it on social media.

I never understand why designers of OC looks always think athletes should look as if they work for an airline or are about to go eat lunch in the local country club. But I am not sure if I have ever seen so many navy blazers in one place.

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

The two people, a man and a woman, holding Argentina’s flag look like they are fighting for control over it. Or maybe the man is playing keep away from the woman? But give the Argentinian contigent of athletes an A+ for jumping and dancing as they walk into the stadium. They are trying to get the party started.

Interesting fact about Iceland: it last won an Olympic medal, in handball, in 2008.

The many volunteers on the arena floor are going to be exhausted after tonight. They are clapping and dancing as the athletes arrive in the stadium and need to keep moving to keep some energy in the stadium going. Usually the crowd roars as each nation is announced. Not this time.

Outside, the anti-Olympics protest is loud enough and the streets are quiet enough that the sounds of bullhorns and whistles are echoing off the walls of the stadium. One protest banner can be roughly translated as, “Stop the five rings.”

I am liking those Iceland looks. Very nice color fade.

I feel like I am watching a Dr. Seuss musical with the pastel greeters.

I love the parade of athletes; it’s always the most fun part of the opening ceremony.

Let the Olympic runway show begin! Because isn’t that what this is?

The athletes begin to arrive. The parade is scheduled to last (checks notes) two hours! First up is Greece, the home of the first Games in 776 BC.

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

This bit is also on video. No doubt for pandemic-related reasons, there is much more video and less live action this time around.

The members of an orchestra are a lot like athletes, right? That’s the premise of the next section of the show.

Muhammad Yunus, who helped develop microfinance, is awarded the “Olympic Laurel” (via video). Wonder how that stacks up with his, um, Nobel Prize.

What Victor describes captures exactly what this last year and a half has been like, most of us at home, watching things on screens that remind us of what it was like to be out among crowds. Life going on, sort of, as we all watch from afar. These Games are trying to capture some sense of that, that we can still find connections during scary and lonely times.

Those Hanten are worn in modern times for summer festivals.

Acrobatic carpenters are now rolling out five large wooden circles. What could those possibly turn into? No prize if you guessed the Olympic rings.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Previous directors of the ceremony have acknowledged that their most important audience is the millions and millions watching on TV, not the tens of thousands in the stadium. That is even more true this year, as each performance ends to some tepid applause from a handful of media and volunteers. Hopefully, those at home aren’t noticing the difference all that much.

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