Tokyo Olympics: Pinoy athletes join traditional Olympics parade of nations

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 23 2021 09:41 PM | Updated as of Jul 23 2021 11:50 PM

Tokyo Olympics: Pinoy athletes join traditional Olympics parade of nations 1
Athletes enter the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony Friday. Athit Perawongmetha, Reuters

The Philippine team proudly walked at the National Stadium Friday night in Tokyo during the opening ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to signify the country's participation in the Games.

Led by flag bearers Eumir Felix Marcial in boxing and Kiyomi Watanabe in judo, the eight-man group that represented the 19 athletes competing in the games. 

The representatives which included six sports officials led by Chef de Mission Nonong Araneta wore Philippine-themed face masks, barongs, and shawls. 

Philippine pride soared on Friday as two athletes and six officials representing the hope and dreams of a nation that has been waiting for almost a century for a gold medal took part in the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

Each of them waved small Philippine flags while joining other competing nations in the 68,000-capacity stadium filled by just a few hundred officials and dignitaries.

Except for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the Philippines has appeared in every edition of the Summer Games since making its debut in the 1924 Games.

Aside from Marcial and Watanabe, Pinoys competing in Tokyo include Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz and fellow weightlifter Elreen Ando, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, swimmers Luke Gebbie and Remedy Rule, skateboarder Margielyn Didal, shooter Jayson Valdez, rower Cris Nievarez, gymnast Carlos Yulo, boxers Carlo Paalam, Nesthy Petecio, and Irish Magno, golfers Yuka Saso, Juvic Pagunsan, and Bianca Pagdanganan and pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

Tokyo Olympics: Pinoy athletes join traditional Olympics parade of nations 2
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. Flag bearers Kiyomi Watanabe of the Philippines and Eumir Marcial of the Philippines lead their contingent during the athletes parade at the opening ceremony. Phil Noble, Reuters

- 'Determined' -

Traditionally a highlight of any Summer Games, featuring the parade of nations and the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, Tokyo's opening ceremony has been drastically pared back.

Fewer than 1,000 dignitaries and officials are present at the stadium, and in a sign of how divisive the Games remain, several top sponsors including Toyota and Panasonic are not attending.

A few hundred protestors demonstrated against the Games outside the stadium as the ceremony began.

Tokyo is battling a surge in virus cases, and is under emergency measures that means bars and restaurants must shut by 8:00 pm and cannot sell alcohol.

- Dogged by controversy -

But Olympic officials have put a brave face on the unusual circumstances, with IOC chief Thomas Bach insisting cancellation was never on the table.

"Over the past 15 months we had to take many decisions on very uncertain grounds," he said this week. "We had doubts every day. There were sleepless nights.

"We can finally see at the end of the dark tunnel. Cancellation was never an option for us. The IOC never abandons the athletes... we did it for the athletes."

There are also hefty financial incentives in play. Insiders estimate the IOC would have been on the hook for around $1.5 billion in lost broadcasting revenues if the Games had been cancelled.

The pandemic has not been the only hiccup in preparations though, with scandals ranging from corruption during the bidding process to plagiarism allegations over the design of the Tokyo 2020 logo. 

The controversies kept coming right up to the eve of the Games, with the opening ceremony's director sacked on Thursday for making a joke referencing the Holocaust in a video from 1998.

Back in the sporting arenas, a new generation of Olympic stars are looking to shine after a decade dominated by the likes of Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

US swimmer Caeleb Dressel could target seven gold medals, and in track and field, 400 metre hurdlers Karsten Warholm of Norway and the USA's Sydney McLaughlin are among those hoping to emerge as household names.

Gymnastics meanwhile will see Simone Biles attempt to crown her dazzling career by equalling Larisa Latynina's record of nine Olympic gold medals.

New Olympic sports will also be on display in Tokyo, with surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing and karate all making their debut.

- With a report from Agence France-Presse

For breaking news and latest developments on the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, visit https://news.abs-cbn.com/tokyo-olympics