The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is finally under way.
A year later, a Covid crisis and a cost blow out after it was originally meant to start, the Games have finally begun with tennis superstar Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron.
The internet was quick to compare it to Cathy Freeman’s iconic moment at the 2000 Olympic Games with social media erupting over the popular choice.
While the Opening Ceremony itself was missing a major element with the crowd locked out of the 68,000 capacity Japan National Stadium, as they will be for the entire Olympics amid the Covid outbreak, the Games opened with a sombre, yet somewhat hopeful display of unity.
Although fans congregated outside the stadium and were heard chanting “Go to hell, IOC”, inside the stadium, the ceremony honoured essential workers and delivered some iconic moments.
In fact from the opening segment of the night, an athlete running on a treadmill, replicating the difficulty of Covid as most of the world has been separated by social distancing.
While there were other athletes exercising but it was the treadmill runner who caught the world’s attention after running for 15 minutes.
The runner was Arisa Tsubata, a Japanese boxer and nurse, who served on the front lines of the Covid-19 battle.
Tsubata won the national Japanese boxing championship at middleweight in 2019 and was attempting to qualify for the Olympics in Tokyo.
But having quit her job as a hospital in January, a cruel twist of fate ruined her Olympic dream.
Due to the Asian qualifying tournament in June being cancelled due to the pandemic, she was robbed of a chance of representing her nation at the Olympics as the boxing tournament took the top 53 boxers in the world based on ranking.
“I had been working so hard for a year after the postponement of the Olympics, and it’s so frustrating that I don’t even have the right to compete.” Tsubata said via Reuters.
But her performance during the opening ceremony won the world over as she claimed more than just a few hearts watching the broadcast.
While some viewers were critical of the ceremony that lasted more than four hours, it was an impressive feat in bizarre circumstances, including the director of the Opening Ceremony being sacked over old jokes about the Holocaust on the eve of the event.
But there were inspiring moments, including Olympic rings made out of lumber from trees planted by athletes in 1964, the last time the Games were held in Tokyo.
And although the athletes entered the stadium with next to no fanfare, plenty of teams still had fun with the night.
However, the Aussie athletes had already left by the time Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron, with the first bus for the athletes departing not too long after the team marched into the stadium.