Tokyo Olympic Games 2020: build-up to the opening ceremony – live!

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Taking a knee has become such a widely accepted anti-racism gesture it was not in the least bit surprising to see football players from the women’s United States, Sweden, Chile, Britain and New Zealand teams doing so before their opening matches on Wednesday night. In the Olympic arena, however, protests have been a hotly contested topic for decades.

For some context, the Olympics have always billed themselves as a non-political entity, one which unifies countries instead of dividing them. To wit, the contentious Rule 50 in the Olympic charter states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” That was famously tested at the Mexico City Games in 1968, when American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists while their national anthem played during the 200m medals ceremony.

#Tokyo2020 sports started yesterday! Just some of the highlights...

Japan starting strong in #softball
⚽ Teams were kneeling before the competition
⚽ Vivianne Miedema scored four goals for #NED
‍♂️ First look at the men’s gymnastics contenders in podium training

This one, too, by Andy Bull, who invites us all into a time machine and transports us back to the very first Games in 1896. The Olympics, he writes, were “born out of uncertainty, delivered by an obdurate and implacable IOC, despite public doubts, political concerns, and escalating costs”. The IOC’s sheer stubbornness has carried the Olympics through 125 years of Olympics across two world wars, massacres, doping scandals and corruption.

“Right the way up to these Tokyo Games. The IOC has tried to compare them to the Antwerp Olympics in 1920, which were held at the tail end of the Spanish flu pandemic. But nothing in living memory has been anything like this. They’re throwing a party in the middle of a global pandemic, have 100,000 guests, 11,000 athletes, and 79,000 officials, support staff and journalists, from more than 200 countries, flying into a city stuck in a state of emergency, in a country where only 22% of the population are fully vaccinated, a country which simply isn’t ready for these Games.”

Related: Tokyo waits and the world watches as IOC gambles on the Games again | Andy Bull

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World news | The Guardian

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Olympic Games. We’re here to provide you with 24-hour rolling coverage of all the highs and lows and in-betweens of perhaps the strangest instalment since the very first in Athens in 1896. This is the “Tokyo 2020” of 2021. The Games that couldn’t happen a year ago because of Covid-19, and the Games many believe shouldn’t happen even now as the pandemic continues to cut a swathe through Japan. Signs of a fifth wave are everywhere in the host nation, where infection and death tolls are rising and vaccination rates remain low, and the capital will be under a state of emergency for the entirety of competition. That’s before mentioning the spiralling financial cost.

But, as International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said, “there is no Plan B”. And so, organisers have pressed on, and almost 80,000 athletes, officials, support staff and yes, us the media, have either arrived or will touch down imminently. The local mood is one of derision, to the point that one of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors, Toyota, announced it will not run Tokyo 2020-related adverts. In such an environment controversy already abounds, likewise with athletes taking the knee, super quick super spikes, and all the others which have unfortunately become something of Olympics tradition such as doping, corruption and the status of Russian athletes, some of whom will compete but under a neutral flag.

We will keep you up to date with all of this, and, of course, the actual sport. Across 16 days, in front of zero spectators, 339 gold medals will be won across 33 sports. For most athletes, many of whom have endured the difficult 12-month delay, just making it to Tokyo is an achievement. Getting to the start line without testing positive or becoming a close contact will be another feat in itself. Do that, and this Games – despite all of the above – represents the peak of so many sporting careers. Reputations will be realised, magnified and shattered, and new global stars made.

Every country approaches the Olympics differently, follows different athletes and teams and excels in different sports. Whether you are rooting for Team USA, Team GB, Australia, or any other, we will be here 24/7 for all the big moments and also many of the small ones too, covering everything off the field and on. We’ll be there for Ash Barty, Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Dina Asher-Smith, Stephanie Gilmore, Kevin Durant, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Ariarne Titmus. We’ll keep you across the new sports as well as the blue riband events.

With support from colleagues in New York, Sydney and London, our coverage includes reports and excellent writing from our Guardian team in Tokyo. Sean Ingle, Justin McCurry, Andy Bull, Barney Ronay, Tumaini Carayol, Suzanne Wrack, Kieran Pender and Tom Dart are on the ground, plus expert analysis through the games from Greg Rutherford, Caroline Dubois and Ben Ryan – athletes and coaches who have been there and done that, and Dubois is there now.

Every day you can receive the best of the action along with the next day’s highlights straight to your inbox via our daily newsletter. Sign up here. We also have a complete schedule, rolling medals table, and full results. For planning, check out our highlights summary and venue guide.

But first, the opening ceremony! I’m here for all the build-up before my colleague Barry Glendenning will take you through the ceremony a little later on. Please do drop me a line via email or Twitter.

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