The Latest: Osaka lights cauldron at Tokyo opening ceremony

The Latest on the Tokyo Olympics, which are taking place under heavy restrictions after a year’s delay because of the coronavirus pandemic:

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Tennis star Naomi Osaka has lit the cauldron at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games, ending the flame’s long journey from Greece to these delayed Olympics.

The cauldron sat atop a peak inspired by Mount Fuji. It’s a sphere that opened like a flower, “to embody vitality and hope,” organizers said. A second cauldron has been placed in Tokyo’s waterfront area was to be lit after the opening ceremony.

It’s always a mystery until the last moment who gets the honor of lighting the cauldron.

Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima and Hideki Matsui were among the baseball greats who took part in bringing the flame into the stadium. They passed it to a doctor and nurse, Hiroko Oohash and Junko Kitagawa, who ran a couple hundred yards with it.

Wakako Tsuchida, a Paralympic athlete, took it from them and began rolling it and his wheelchair closer to the stage as athletes and others on the floor for the ceremony rushed forward for a closer look.

A group of six students were next to bring it closer to the stage, and at the foot of the stage with the last torch was Osaka — the four-time Grand Slam winner who will compete at the Tokyo Games.

She brought it to the center of the stage. A staircase emerged, the cauldron opened and Osaka walked to the top, the Olympic and Japanese flags blowing in the breeze off to her left. She dipped the flame in, the cauldron ignited and fireworks filled the sky.

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At long last, the Tokyo Olympics have officially been declared open by Japan’s Emperor Naruhito.

The games, delayed for a year by the pandemic, have had competition taking place since earlier in the week, but are not considered officially having started until the opening ceremony.

Seiko Hashimoto is the president of the Tokyo Organizing Committee and told the athletes, “I greet you all from the bottom of my heart.” She spoke of what Japan has been through during the planning for the Olympics, including the recovery from a devastating earthquake and the ongoing fight with the pandemic.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach also spoke, saying the Olympics are again showing the “unifying power of sport.”

Bach began his remarks by telling those in the stadium, “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.”

After Bach spoke and the Emperor made his declaration, the Olympic flag was carried into the stadium, with pandemic frontline workers being honored in that portion of the ceremony. The workers were from Tokyo, but represented all those who have been on the front lines globally.

From there, a choir of Japanese students sang as a prequel to the traditional release of doves, the Olympic gesture to express a desire for world peace.

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An array of singers, including John Legend and Keith Urban, have performed “Imagine” at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.

The song’s inclusion was a nod to the song that John Lennon and Yoko Ono co-wrote 50 years ago. The singers appeared on video.

“We’re not the first to say ‘Imagine no countries’ or ‘Give peace a chance,’ but we’re carrying that torch, like the Olympic torch, passing it hand to hand, to each other, to each country, to each generation,” Lennon once said. “And that’s our job.”

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French President Emmanuel Macron says Japan was right to hold the Olympic Games despite a rise in coronavirus infections, now at a six-month high.

“These Olympic Games had to be held,” said Macron, who was in Tokyo for the start of the games. “The Olympics is the spirit of cooperation and we need it … in this time of COVID,” he said in an interview on France Television, the public TV channel.

The 2024 games will take place in Paris.

Japan is holding the Games amid a state of emergency, and some have criticized the country’s leaders for prioritizing the Olympics over the nation’s health.

“Japan authorities were right to hold the Olympics because no one knows how the epidemic will evolve in the coming years” or if there will be others, Macron said, adding that this only shows that nations must adapt.

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The U.S. Olympic team entered the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games with first lady Jill Biden among those in the stadium to cheer the Americans’ arrival.

Basketball’s Sue Bird and baseball’s Eddy Alvarez had the flagbearer duties for the U.S. It was a particularly emotional moment for Alvarez, a Cuban-American from Miami — given the current times in his home city.

Protests and demonstrations have been common in Miami for several days, a show of support for Cubans who have taken to the streets in the communist nation to air grievances about poor economic conditions and other complaints.

Most members of the U.S. basketball teams marched in the parade. The Americans were followed by only France and Japan in the 207-nation parade.

Biden’s appearance at the opening ceremony is part of her first solo trip abroad as first lady. She is also expected to attend some events involving U.S. athletes before departing Japan.

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Pita’s back, and he brought back his oil.

The shirtless Tongan whose fame rocketed after entering the 2016 Olympics with his upper body glistening for all to see — his name is Pita Taufatofua, by the way — returned to the Tokyo Games as one of his nation’s flagbearers again.

And yes, he was shirtless.

It’s the third consecutive Olympics in which Taufatofua has competed as an athlete. He competed in taekwondo at the Rio Games, took part in skiing at Pyeongchang in 2018 — yes, shirtless for that one, too — and is back in Tokyo as part of his taekwondo team again. Taufatofua tried to qualify in kayaking, but didn’t make the Tokyo cut in that sport.

He’s also used his fame for good. Taufatofua is a UNICEF ambassador, works with homeless shelters and is busy raising money for sporting equipment for nations in need.

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Sue Bird is one of the flagbearers for the U.S. in the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, sharing that role with baseball’s Eddy Alvarez.

Bird is a five-time Olympian in women’s basketball. She remembers 2004 when the U.S. women’s basketball team got to walk at the front of the delegation along with flag bearer Dawn Staley, now the U.S. head coach in Tokyo. Bird says one of her favorite memories was walking in and hearing the crowd in Athens roar.

There was some noise for the athletes on Friday night. Just no roars; the stadium wasn’t anywhere near filled enough for those.

Bird says “this Olympics are like no other.”

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The parade of athletes at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics has started.

Organizers expect about 5,700 athletes to take part in the parade. Some will skip it because of early competitions on Saturday or to avoid risk of exposure to the coronavirus. And this parade differs from most others in the past because the nations are being spaced out — a nod to social distancing.

Hundreds of volunteers are on the stadium floor as well to greet the athletes as they walk through. Many athletes are waving; others are capturing their entrance on their phone cameras.

Moments before the parade, a wooden set of Olympic rings was displayed at the center of the stadium in a nod to the 1964 Tokyo Games. There, athletes from around the world were asked to bring seeds that could be planted and become trees.

Wood from 160 pines and spruces, seeds that came from Canada, Ireland and Northern Europe, were used to build the set of Olympic rings displayed Friday.

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Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach have arrived for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Games.

Naruhito attended the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as a 4-year-old, watching the marathon and equestrian events. Bach won a gold medal in fencing at the 1976 Montreal Games.

They were followed by a delegation chosen to carry the Japanese flag into the stadium, before the host nation’s national anthem was performed by singer Misia.

Tributes were paid to those lost during the pandemic, and the Israeli delegation that was killed at the Munich Games in 1972. A moment of silence was offered inside the stadium.

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With a blaze of indigo and white fireworks lighting the night sky, the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony has started.

It began with a single female athlete at the center of the stadium, kneeling. As she stood, the shadow behind her took the shape of a seedling, growing as she walked. A number of athletes were featured in a video that started with the moment Tokyo won the Olympic bid in 2013, then eventually to images of a world silenced by the pandemic.

Then came the fireworks, a 20-second blast of light — as if to say these Olympics have finally emerged from dark times.

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The International Olympic Committee has released the order of the parade of nations for the opening ceremony and the names of all the flagbearers.

Greece, per Olympic tradition, enters first. The host nation always enters last, so it’ll likely take a couple hours or so before Japanese flagbearers Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura lead their national contingent into the stadium.

The Refugee Olympic team goes second in the parade. The others are slotted by their order in the Japanese alphabet, so Iceland and Ireland precede Azerbaijan, for example.

The IOC says 206 teams — 205 nations and the refugee team — will be taking part in the opening ceremony. Some nations will have their flags carried by volunteers. Other nations will have only one flagbearer. Most will have two, with one male and one female athlete chosen for the role.

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The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony is about to begin, 364 days behind the original schedule and with a very different feel than what was originally intended before the pandemic changed everything.

The Olympic Stadium is largely empty. The Tokyo 2020 souvenir store outside the front gates is closed. But that doesn’t mean fans have stayed away. Hundreds of fans gathered outside the gates and along the sidewalks of closed streets, waving at any person with an Olympic credential or any vehicle that went by with an Olympic logo.

Track and field events will be held in the stadium later in these games. The track itself is covered by a large black tarp for the opening ceremony and the infield is covered with a white tarp, one where graphics will be displayed over the course of the evening.

Some dignitaries and invited guests will be in the stadium seats, including U.S. first lady Jill Biden.

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Six Polish swimmers have returned home before the Olympics even started, their dreams scuttled by the country mistakenly sending too many athletes to Tokyo.

Only 17 swimmers from Poland qualified for the Tokyo Games. The country’s swimming federation put 23 athletes on the plane to Japan, sparking outrage among those who were denied a chance to compete.

Two-time Olympian Alicja Tchorz was among those sent home. She griped on social media about all the sacrifices she had made to earn another trip to the Summer Games, only for it to result “in a total flop.”

The team sent out a statement demanding the resignation of Polish Swimming Federation president Paweł Słomiński. He issued his own statement expressing “regret, sadness and bitterness” about the athletes’ situation.

Słomiński said there was confusion over the qualifying rules and he was merely trying to “allow as many players and coaches as possible to take part” in the Olympics.

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A bad weather forecast for Monday in Tokyo has prompted Olympic officials to move scheduled rowing events to Sunday.

Officials say rain, high winds and strong gusts could cause choppy and potentially unrowable conditions at the Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay.

The change affects men’s and women’s single and double sculls semifinals, and men’s and women’s fours repechage. The opening heats in the men’s and women’s eights also were moved from Sunday to Saturday.

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Australian swimmer Kaylee McKeown has surprisingly withdrawn from one of her best events because of a busy schedule at the Tokyo Olympics.

McKeown dropped the 200-meter individual medley, where she’s ranked No. 1 in the world and would have been a favorite to win a gold medal. She’ll focus instead on her two backstroke events and the relays.

“You have a rookie coming into the Olympics — it is a new experience and a big call,” Australian coach Rohan Taylor said.

The 200 IM semifinal heats are Monday night and the 100 back final is the next morning. Taylor says the timing “could be a challenge,” so the decision was made to drop the individual medley.

McKeown set a world record in the 100 back last month at the Australian trials, and the 20-year-old swimmer will be a gold medal favorite in that event.

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The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says about 100 of the 613 U.S. athletes descending on Tokyo for the Olympics are unvaccinated.

Medical director Jonathan Finnoff says 567 of the American athletes had filled out their health histories as they prepared for the trip. He estimated 83% had replied they were vaccinated.

Finnoff says 83 percent is a substantial number and and the committee is quite happy with it.

Nationally, 56.3% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The International Olympic Committee estimates that around 85% of residents of the Olympic Village are vaccinated. That’s based that on what each country’s Olympic committee reports but is not an independently verified number.

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South Korea’s An San has broken the women’s Olympic archery record with a score of 680 in the qualifying round on a hot and humid day.

Her mark topped the score of 673 set by Lina Herasymenko of Ukraine in 1996. An San’s teammates Jang Minhee (677) and Kang Chae Young (675) were second and third.

Russian Olympic Committee archer Svetlana Gomboeva collapsed in the intense heat and was treated by medical staff. The temperature soared above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

In the men’s qualifying round, Kim Je Deok of South Korea posted the top mark of 688, with Brady Ellison of the United States second (682) and Oh Jin Hyek of South Korea third (681).

The Olympic debut of the mixed team event will be Saturday. The women’s individual competition is next Friday and the men’s individual event the following day.

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About 50 protesters have gathered in Tokyo to demand the cancellation of the Olympics.

The opening ceremony is set for Friday evening local time.

The protesters gathered outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building chanting “no to the Olympics” and “save people’s lives.” They held up signs reading “cancel the Olympics.”

The Games, largely without spectators and opposed by much of the host nation, are going ahead a year later than planned.

A day earlier, Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases as worries grew of worsening infections during the Games. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population in Japan are much lower than in many other countries.

The opening ceremony will be held mostly without spectators to prevent the spread of coronavirus infections, although some officials, guests and media will attend.

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Jill Biden has held a virtual meet-and-greet with several U.S. athletes who will compete at the Tokyo Games.

The U.S. first lady is in Tokyo to support the athletes and attend the opening ceremony.

She spoke virtually with Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player and short track speed skater, and basketball player Sue Bird. Both will be flagbearers for the U.S. at the opening ceremony. She also spoke with Allison Schmitt, a four-time Olympic swimmer and mental health advocate.

Biden told the athletes that they’d given up a lot to be in Tokyo and relied on support from family and friends.

On Saturday, she’ll dedicate a room in the residence of the U.S. chief of mission to former U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, and his wife, Irene Hirano Inouye.

She will host a U.S.-vs.-Mexico softball watch party at the U.S. Embassy for staff and their families, and cheer U.S. athletes competing in several events before leaving Tokyo.

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South African race walker Lebogang Shange has been banned for four years for doping and will miss the Tokyo Olympics.

The former African champion was entered in the men’s 20-kilometer race on Aug. 5. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled on the case in Tokyo.

The 30-year-old Shange tested positive for the anabolic steroid trenbolone and was provisionally suspended in December 2019. His ban will expire before the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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The Swiss Olympic team says 400-meter hurdler Kariem Hussein has accepted a nine-month ban after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

The 2014 European champion was entered in the event at the Tokyo Games. The heats start next Friday. It is unclear if Hussein will be replaced in the 40-athlete lineup.

The Swiss Olympic body’s tribunal backdated the ban by one week from the time Hussein was provisionally suspended. That suspension had not been disclosed.

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Tokyo Olympic organizers have reported 25 new COVID-19 cases. Three of them are athletes that were announced on Thursday.

There are 13 athletes among the 110 Olympic-accredited people that have tested positive in Japan since July 1.

Three media workers coming to Japan from abroad were included in the latest update.

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Naomi Osaka’s opening match in the Olympic tennis tournament has been pushed back from Saturday to Sunday.

Organizers did not immediately provide a reason for the switch. They said only that the move came from the tournament referee.

Osaka was originally scheduled to play 52nd-ranked Zheng Saisai of China in the very first contest of the Games on center court Saturday morning.

One reason for the move could be that Osaka might have a role in the opening ceremony Friday night. That wouldn’t leave her much time to rest before a Saturday morning match.

Osaka is returning to competition for the first time in nearly two months after she withdrew from the French Open following the first round to take a mental health break.

She is one of Japan’s top athletes.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency says several Russian athletes have been kept away from the Tokyo Olympics because of doping suspicions based on evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory that was shut down in 2015.

WADA director general Olivier Niggli says it intervened with sports bodies to ensure those athletes — “not many, but there was a handful” — were not selected.

The team of 335 Russian athletes accredited for Tokyo is competing without a national flag and anthem as punishment for state tampering with the Moscow lab’s database. The team name is ROC, the acronym for Russian Olympic Committee, without the word “Russia.”

The identity ban for the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games was imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport last December.

Giving WADA the database and samples from the lab was key to getting closure for the long-running Russian state-backed doping scandal.

WADA had a list of around 300 athletes under suspicion and gave evidence to Olympic sports bodies for possible disciplinary cases.

Niggli says “we cross-checked what we had from this long list” to ensure athletes were not selected for Tokyo.

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Russian archer Svetlana Gomboeva lost consciousness during a competition at the Tokyo Olympics in intense heat.

Coach Stanislav Popov says in comments via the Russian Olympic Committee that Gomboeva collapsed shortly after completing the qualifying round Friday.

Popov says “she couldn’t stand it, a whole day in the heat” and adds that humidity made the problem worse. Temperatures in Tokyo were above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit.)

The heat in Tokyo’s summer months already prompted organizers to move the marathons and race-walking events to the cooler city of Sapporo.

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U.S. men’s water polo captain Jesse Smith will skip the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics on Friday after the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee limited how many players from his team could participate in the festivities.

Olympic water polo rosters consist of 13 players, and 12 are designated as available for each game. Smith said the team was told by the USOPC that it could have 12 credentialed athletes walk in the ceremony.

“We tried to keep our team together and change it with every constructive outlet, but no success, and now it’s time to refocus on getting game ready,” Smith wrote on Twitter. “So tonight I am sending my team out there to represent (the United States) proudly and soak up every moment. Let’s go boys!”

The 38-year-old Smith is playing in his fifth Olympics, matching Tony Azevedo for most Olympic teams for a U.S. water polo athlete. He was under consideration to serve as the male U.S. flag bearer for the opening ceremony before that honor went to baseball player Eddy Alvarez.

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A map on the Olympic website has been changed after Ukraine protested that it included a border across the Crimean Peninsula.

The map is part of a “Cheer Zone” feature tracking how fans around the world have backed different teams at the Tokyo Games.

Late Thursday the map had a black line across the top of Crimea in the same style as national borders. On Friday morning, there was no line across the peninsula. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine still considers it to be Ukrainian territory.

The Ukrainian embassy in Japan tells the Associated Press in an e-mail that “we have protested to the IOC and the map was corrected.”

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Road cyclist Michal Schlegel is the fourth Czech athlete from three different sports to test positive before their competition at the Tokyo Games.

Schlegel tested positive at the team’s training base in Izu and will miss Saturday’s road race.

The Czech Olympic Committee said in a statement Friday that Schlegel is in isolation, and that Michael Kukrle and Zdenek Stybar will be its only two riders lining up at Musashinonomori Park for one of the first medal events of the Summer Games.

Czech beach volleyball players Marketa Slukova and Ondrej Perusic and table tennis player Pavel Sirucek also tested positive earlier this week. That has prompted the Czech Olympic team to investigate whether the outbreak is linked to its chartered flight to Tokyo.

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