With resolve and emotion, Japanese delegation unite at Tokyo 2020 kick-off ceremony

Japanese Olympic Committee President YAMASHITA Yasuhiro hands the national flag to Tokyo 2020 flag-bearer SUSAKI Yui.
Japanese Olympic Committee President YAMASHITA Yasuhiro hands the national flag to Tokyo 2020 flag-bearer SUSAKI Yui.

The wait is over, says Japanese Olympic Committee President YAMASHITA Yasuhiro. The curtain will be raised on the Games in 17 days.

The wait is over.

Japan's team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games came together on Tuesday evening (6 July) in a virtual kick-off event where they rallied 17 days ahead of the Opening Ceremony.

Across the street from the Olympic Stadium where the 23 July-8 August Games will open after being postponed by a year, the host country delegation vowed to make Tokyo's Olympics a success.

The 1,058-strong delegation features 582 athletes, made up of 306 men and 276 women.

"The Olympic Games, returning to Tokyo after almost 50 years, are finally about to open," Japanese Olympic Committee President YAMASHITA Yasuhiro said during his opening address at the Japan Olympic Museum.

"Going back to when the bid first started, it has been a wait of 15 years for this moment.

"In a turbulent year, the athletes overcame all kinds of challenges and difficulties including not being able to train or compete. But through thick and thin, they gave it their best at all times.

"The year-long wait is now over and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, that they express themselves to the fullest."

Two-time Olympian and the Japan men's 100-metre record-holder YAMAGATA Ryota has been named team captain with ISHIKAWA Kasumi, two-time medallist in women's table tennis named vice-captain.

Washington Wizards forward HACHIMURA Rui and SUSAKI Yui are co-flagbearers. They will both be Olympic debutants this summer.

Tokyo will be the first Games ever to feature a male and female flagbearer each.

Former tennis standout FUKUI Tsuyoshi is Chef de Mission.

"Once again, I'm reminded that we are in the position we are in because of the understanding and support we are blessed to have," Yamagata said.

"I hope at the Games, each and every one of our athletes performs at 100 per cent, that we leave it all out there".

Susaki added, "The Olympics I've been dreaming about for so long is finally starting. It's going to be my first Olympics so I was a little bit surprised to be asked to be flagbearer.

"I accepted because I wanted to do my part in helping these Games and giving back to everyone who's backed us."

The JOC had originally set a target of 30 gold medals - nearly double their best of 16 which they won at Tokyo 1964 and Athens 2004.

But with the coronavirus pandemic having thrown the entire world, the JOC is no longer going to hold the delegation against that mark.

"Of course we would like to win 30 golds but right now, the priority is for our athletes to be safe and to be able to perform at their absolute best", Fukui said.

"The conditions have changed dramatically since we set the goal and the most important thing is the athletes doing as well as they possibly can. We can worry about the number of medals later."

Crown Prince Akishino delivered a video message that echoed the JOC.

"These Games will be organised under circumstances vastly different from a normal Olympics," His Imperial Highness said.

"I hope the participants will take their utmost precautions against the infection and on the field of play, and show what they have worked hard for all long."

From left, flagbearer SUSAKI Yui, Japan team vice captain ISHIKAWA Kasumi and captain YAMAGATA Ryota at Tuesday's kick-off ceremony for the host country delegation.
From left, flagbearer SUSAKI Yui, Japan team vice captain ISHIKAWA Kasumi and captain YAMAGATA Ryota at Tuesday's kick-off ceremony for the host country delegation.
(Photo courtesy of JOC)