The Olympics formally kick off Friday night in Tokyo with the opening ceremony, but competition at the pandemic-delayed Summer Games is already underway.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the second day of events:
Covid keeps coming: The challenges of holding one of the world’s most prestigious sporting competitions during a pandemic have never been more clear. Several athletes have seen their dreams dashed after testing positive either in their home countries or upon arrival in Japan. Dozens of cases in Japan have been tied to the Games.
With a little more than 24 hours to go until the opening ceremony, organizers continue to exude confidence the Olympics can be held successfully with the safety measures in place.
Still, things look remarkably different than years past. The nearly empty stadiums in which athletes are competing are a constant visual reminder of the pandemic’s toll. Tomorrow’s festivities may look even more barren. Local media is reporting that only 950 VIPs will attend the opening ceremony, held in a stadium with 68,000 seats.
Japan’s top Olympic official did not rule out a last-minute cancellation, but things appear to be going ahead as planned.
“The world needs now more than ever a celebration of hope,” World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a speech in Tokyo ahead of the Games. “The celebrations may be more muted this year, but the message of hope is all the more important.”
Activist athletes: Five women’s football teams protested against racism ahead of their opening matches: Great Britain, Chile, the United States, Sweden and New Zealand. Australia’s team remained standing with their arms locked together and posed for a pre-game photo with the country’s Indigenous flag.
Swedish defender Amanda Ilestedt said after the match they were standing up for human rights.
Softball, football and shooting: The schedule today is lighter than a normal Olympic day, but here are some of the highlights:
- The top-seeded US softball team takes on Canada, which is ranked third
- Men’s football begins with eight matches in the afternoon and evening Japan time
- Official shooting training will take place at the Asaka Shooting Range.