Opening Ceremony welcomes Team GB to Tokyo 2020

The Olympics is a festival of different sports, countries and athletes and despite the relatively subdued nature of the opening ceremony in Tokyo, that was evident at the Olympic Stadium.

In the Team GB delegation alone, we saw diminutive 5ft2 sailor Hannah Mills sharing flag bearing duties with colossal 6ft8 rower Mohamed Sbihi, a reminder that sport is for all shapes and sizes.

The pair are also evidence of the increasingly diverse nature of the team, Mills the first Welsh woman to carry the flag at a summer Games, Sbihi the first Muslim athlete to do so.

Behind them, heavyweight boxer Frazer Clarke’s excitement was obvious, in spite of the masks that hid the faces of the British contingent.

Covid protocols were the main reason for such a reduced number, fewer athletes than GB won gold medals in both London and Rio.

However, those who were in attendance were clearly drinking in every moment of it.

Smartly kitted out in their Ben Sherman gear, a navy Harrington jacket with red and white union stripes on the sleeves, as well as the iconic white oxford shirt, the Brits strode out slightly earlier than usual, with the countries parading in order of the Japanese alphabet.

As well as Mills and Sbihi, there were athletes from canoe slalom, fencing, weightlifting, boxing and trampolining.

The opening ceremony also provides the opportunity to learn about some of the other great stories from these Games.

Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza is just 12, younger even than GB skateboard sensation Sky Brown, but did not seem overawed by the occasion.

Australian basketball player Paddy Mills made history as the first Indigenous Australian to carry the flag at an Olympics, French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd performed a backflip five years after breaking his leg in Rio.

And of course, Pita Taufatofua returned for his third successive Games with his familiar bare-chested walk around the stadium, slightly more comfortable in the baking conditions than three years ago in PyeongChang.

Prior to the athletes’ parade, the ceremony struck a quiet, intimate note, perhaps inevitable with the lack of fans in the stadium.

Hope and resilience formed the main themes of the opening scenes, while there was also a focus on sustainability.

Fittingly, the wood used to carve the Olympic Rings at the ceremony came from trees planted by Japan’s athletes the last time Tokyo hosted the Games back in 1964.

The highlight of the entire ceremony came after the parade, 1,824 drones flying over the stadium to create a floating globe that had those in attendance in awe.

That left the prestigious honour of lighting the flame, with tennis superstar Naomi Osaka taking on the task.

The 2020 Olympics are officially underway.