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Olympic Games in Tokyo declared open by Japanese Emperor, Osaka lights torch

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Naomi Osaka
Posted at 1:38 AM, Jul 23, 2021

After a yearlong delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics in Tokyo are officially open.

Japanese Emperor Naruhito declared the games open during the Opening Ceremony Friday at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

"I greet you all from the bottom of my heart,” Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee, told athletes at the official opening of the games.

“Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment. Finally, we are all here together," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Tennis star Naomi Osaka later lit the Olympic torch, the symbolic opening of the 2021 games.

The Opening Ceremony took place in a mostly empty Olympic Stadium mostly devoid of spectators. Japan is in a state of emergency in the midst of a surge in COVID-19 cases.

First Lady Jill Biden and other world leaders are among the handful of spectators in attendance.

As per tradition, athletes from all participating filed into the stadium. The United States delegation arrived just after 9:30 a.m. ET, led by flag-bearers Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player, and Sue Bird, a basketball player.

Despite the lack of spectators, the program moved forward with typical theatrics, including a large-scale fireworks show.

The opening portion of the program focused on the themes of "apart but not alone," as a choreographed dance represented what it was like for athletes to come together after months of training solo.

The program also featured a moment of silence to honor those killed by COVID-19.

The performance is taking place just hours after the program's director, Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired after anti-Semitic jokes he made during a comedy set in the 1990s resurfaced.

The program's composer, Keigo Oyamada, also resigned in recent days after an interview he conducted in the 1990s resurfaced in which he boasted about bullying people with disabilities.

The Opening Ceremony is airing live right now on NBC. The network will re-air the performance tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET in an edited and "enhanced" primetime broadcast that features additional commentary.