The curtain rises on the Games. The Italian tricolour waves in the hands of Jessica Rossi and Elia Viviani

TOKYO 2020

A year late, the curtain rises on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The first in history to be postponed by 12 months, the first of the Covid-19 era. The first major world event in which the athletes of the Planet (reproduced in the finale in the sky to the notes of Imagine) meet to measure themselves, confront themselves and others, going beyond those walls that the coronavirus has erected between us.
The ceremony staged at the Tokyo Olympic Stadium sends a message of hope to the world, united by Sport in the name of Olympic values. The journey starts from the primordial beginning, common to all, and winds its way up to recount the difficulties faced by the athletes to reach this goal, which has never been so dreamed of and coveted. First, Emperor Naruhito and IOC President Thomas Bach are in the gallery. Then, after a year of uncertainty, Japan's national flag entered the field, carried by athletes, medical staff and those who had worked hard to overcome this difficult period. First, there was an emotional tribute to the victims of the pandemic. Then, a minute's silence was dedicated to the eleven members of the Israel team killed during a terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Games.
In keeping with tradition, with two important symbols of Japan on the field - the sun, which also appears in the national flag, and Mount Fuji - and with a special link to the 1964 Tokyo edition, the five circles made of wood from the 47 Japanese prefectures take shape at the centre of the stage, in memory of the Games 57 years ago, when athletes from all nations brought with them the seeds of the commemorative trees that would establish an indissoluble link between the Olympics and the Land of the Rising Sun.
Then it is time for the athletes' parade, the undisputed protagonists of the five-ring event scheduled until 8 August (photo Mezzelani/Ferraro/Pagliaricci- GMT Sport). Greece starts, as usual, followed by the IOC representative of the refugees. At the back of the United States, organisers of Los Angeles 2028, followed by France, are working on Paris 2024 and the Japanese hosts.
Under the watchful eye of the CONI President, Giovanni Malagò, and the Undersecretary to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers with responsibility for Sport and multiple Olympic medallist, Valentina Vezzali, Italy entered the Stadium in eighteenth position, according to the Japanese alphabet, at around 20:50 local time, after Israel and before Iraq. The Tricolour entrusted by President Mattarella - celebrated before the parade by the Italian Team with a video - waves in the hands of an unusual couple of standard bearers composed of Olympians Jessica Rossi (shooting) and Elia Viviani (cycling). Behind them a large representation of the Italy team, with the Secretary-General of CONI, Carlo Mornati, responsible for Olympic Preparation and 110 athletes (of 22 disciplines: Basketball 3x3, Canoe Slalom, Rowing, BMX Cycling, Track Cycling, Artistic Gymnastics, Judo, Swimming, Basketball, Volleyball, Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Fencing, Softball, Equestrian Sports, Surfing, Taekwondo, Tennis, Tennis Volleyball, Shooting, Volleyball and Diving) out of the 384 expected in Japan (record number of Italian athletes at the Olympics). Our athletes paraded in white, wearing a special EA7 Emporio Armani garment, with the masks of the same colour, which now mark our daily life. Ready to live a dream with all the Italian fans, glued to the TV, in this unusual edition of the Games without an audience: unique for the gender equality among athletes declined in all aspects; unique and symbolically strong as stressed by President Bach in his speech, held after that of the President of the Organising Committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Seiko Hashimoto. "This feeling of unity is the light at the end of the dark tunnel of the pandemic. Today is a moment of hope - his words -, very differently from what we would have imagined. Finally, we are all here together, athletes and political refugees. Let me be happy about this moment. You athletes have never given up, and you are an inspiration.
It was the Emperor's turn to declare the Games open. The Olympic flag is carried by six athletes from every continent, including Italian volleyball player Paola Egonu, representing Europe and our country. The Tokyo 2020 Games are already tinged with the colours of the Italy team. It was the turn of tennis player Naomi Osaka to light the brazier. In the sky, fireworks illuminate the Japanese night. Lights of hope for a world that wants to emerge from the darkness of the pandemic.