After more than a year of delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off yesterday in Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, with the opening ceremony featuring plenty of pomp and substance as athletes marched behind their national flags during the parade.
The Games, which was initially billed to hold in the summer of 2020, was pushed forward by a year because of the coronavirus pandemic but the event retains its title ‘Tokyo 2020’.
The opening ceremony was without spectators, although 1,000 VIPs and delegates were allowed to attend, including Japan’s Emperor Naruhito, IOC President Thomas Bach, Nigeria’s minister of youth and sports development, Sunday Dare, and others.
The first athletes that entered the stadium were from Greece, the historical home of the Olympic Games. And for the second time in its history, the Olympic Games welcomed the IOC Refugee Olympic Team.
Leading the delegation into the stadium were the flag bearers, swimmer Yusra Mardini and marathon runner Tachlowini Gabriyesos.
Team Nigeria was present at the ceremony as they paraded in simple stylish green and white outfits. Leading Nigeria’s delegation into the stadium in fashionable style were the flag bearers Odunayo Adekuoroye and captain Aruna Quadri, two of the country’s top medal hopefuls.
After the heavy criticism that trailed Team Nigeria’s outfit in Rio, Brazil, four years ago, the Nigerian Olympic contingent kept last term’s disappointment behind to appear in their renowned Arewa costume (kaftan) to mark the official opening of the Tokyo Games, waving the country’s flags as they processed round the stadium.
Team Nigeria athletes are known for their flamboyant attire which showcases their vast cultural backgrounds.
Sixty athletes will represent Team Nigeria at the Games across 10 sports – athletics, basketball, badminton, canoeing, gymnastics, table tennis, swimming, rowing, wrestling and taekwondo.
The Olympics has brought mixed fortunes for Nigeria, with 1996 still Nigeria’s best outing where Chioma Ajunwa and the country’s men U-23 football team won gold medals.
Nigeria’s other gold medal at the Olympics came in 2000, when the men’s 4x400m relay team had their silver medal upgraded to gold medal after a member of the American team, which had won the gold medal, failed a dope test.
Team Nigeria had also won 10 silver and 12 bronze medals, with athletics bringing in five silver and bronze medals respectively, while three silver and bronze medals each were won in the boxing event. Aside the Atlanta gold, football also has one silver and one bronze, same as weightlifting, with taekwondo the other medal winning sport with one bronze medal.
In this year’s event, Nigeria is hopeful of getting some medals of whatever grade.