The thousands of unfilled seats inside the stadium, however, remained an unusual, uneasy sight all night.
Despite this, the Team Singapore contingent, who looked snappy in their blazers and Japan-inspired ties and scarfs, were all smiles as they waved around the empty arena along with the approximately 6,000 athletes and team officials.
Singapore’s athletes at the opening ceremony. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
The Republic will be represented by 23 athletes across 12 sports in Tokyo but only six were in the 12-strong contingent that marched. Some have yet to arrive in the country as they adhere to strict travel schedules tied to their events, while others – like shooter Adele Tan and fencer Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman – preferred to rest in preparation for early battles on Saturday.
Shuttler Loh Kean Yew, who was Singapore’s joint-flag bearer with table tennis player Yu Mengyu, said he was living his “childhood dream” being at the Olympics.
“Being here in Tokyo finally, after one year of postponement and the uncertainties, feels very surreal,” said Mr Loh, 24. “Even though the stadium is empty, being here fills me with plenty of excitement. I’m extremely honoured to carry the Singapore flag tonight, and will do my very best at the Olympic Games.”
Ms Yu, meanwhile, called being a flag bearer a “major landmark” in her life.
Tokyo marks Olympics opening ceremony with fireworks
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Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also the Singapore National Olympic Council president, flew into Tokyo on the eve of the ceremony, and wrote in a Facebook post that it was a “pity there is no audience” in a “beautiful stadium”.
“But we are living in extraordinary times and some things can’t be helped,” said Mr Tan. “The organisers are doing what they can to keep us all safe and to keep things moving smoothly. I hope that the sportsmen and women will be able to inspire us through their performances and contests as they have done through the ages.”
Even without spectators, elaborate choreography and large groups of dancers still entertained in performances that showcased Japan’s culture and history.
In one segment, a wooden installation of the Olympic Rings was erected in the middle of the stadium – the rings were crafted with wood grown from trees planted by athletes when the Olympics came to Tokyo in 1964.
Athletes with the Olympic rings at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
History, however, largely took a back seat at Friday night’s ceremony, which is tied to the concept of “Moving Forward”, a reference to recovering from the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the International Olympic Committee amended its motto to “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”, with the last word an addition made to “adapt it to our times”, explained its president Thomas Bach. And what novel times they are.