Hello there, long time no see. And I'm amazed how many familiar names I still see around here.
But getting straight to the point: I think that Rob Livingstone summed it up very well when he called this ceremony "unfocussed". There were nice and even beautiful elements, but there were others who were not well-executed or even puzzling. I think the ceremony didn't flow extremely well, it sometimes lacked pace and shifted focus too often. And I find that regrettable after that brilliant handover segment in Rio in 2016 which ws so cool, clever, modern and even sexy. I won't forget how I watched that handover segment back then with my then-boyfriend and told him "Wouldn't it be nice to travel to Tokyo 2020 together in four years?" Well, 2020 changed everything - my boyfriend and I split up, the pandemic hit the world and the Tokyo Games had to be postponed. And that change, that disruption was also noticeable in the execution of today's opening ceremony. It couldn't quite deliver what the handover had promised.
Let me give my thoughts in a pro and con list. Here are the elements I truly liked:
+ The video at the the start of the ceremony that showed the euphoria building up since Tokyo got awarded the Games in 2013 - and then, in 2020, everything went black and back to zero. I couldn't help but tearing up at that moment, also bearing in mind the changes I experienced in my private life in 2020 (see above).
+ I also liked the idea of showing those athletes exercising at home alone, which gave the ceremony a truly contemporary and authentic touch right at the start.
+ It was a big surprise for me that they finally mentioned the killed Israeli athletes of the Munich 1972 Games in the moment of silence. It took far too long to give them recognition in such a manner, but I hope that it gave some comfort to the relatives and friends of those murdered for whom the IOC's stubbornness in the past 49 years must have been nerve-wrecking.
+ The manga optics and the video game music during the parade of nations were a clever idea. It was sad, though, that after 90 minutes or so the music kept repeating itself and no new pieces were added. Where was the Super Mario music, for example? And why no special music for the entrance of the Japanese athletes?
+ I had to laugh out loud when the Irish athletes took a bow when entering the stadium. Nice and funny touch!
+ The drones forming the logo and especially the globe above the stadium. Even if I fear that we will see many more drone segments in Beijing, Paris, Milan/Cortina, Los Angeles etc., the idea is still fairly fresh and the globe was truly impressive.
+ I must admit that I liked the "Imagine" segment even if I agree that this should be the last time for a looong time where we hear that song during an Olympic ceremony. But I found the video with the international singers emotional, especially their sad looks as if they wanted to say "We should actually be all together with you in Tokyo."
+ The lighting of the cauldron. While Naomi Osaka looked a little bit too much "Yeah, okay, whatever..." when she received and presented the torch, I liked the music and the cauldron itself, it's an imaginative and beautiful design. I only ask myself what has become of Rio's idea to have a smaller flame with a lower carbon imprint. Especially after Germany experienced a horrific flooding after heavy (climate change-related) rainfalls last week, I think that a stronger environmentalist message at this opening ceremony would have been more urgent than ever.
+ Most of the time the ceremony managed to overcome its biggest flaw: The lack of an audience. I didn't miss a large cheering audience as much as I originally expected - so I think the organisers did their best in order to overcome the (mostly) silence from the stands. I think that will be different during the sports events, where the cheers and applause will certainly be sorely missed.
And here are the elements I disliked:
- The segment with the carpenters as only real reference to Japanese culture and history before the parade of athletes was too little in order to introduce the host country and giving the ceremony a truly Japanese flavour. I like the idea, though, of using the wood of the trees planted by athletes after the Tokyo 1964 Games. I just hope they didn't chop all those trees down.
- The Olympic Laurel segment should be discarded at an Olympic opening ceremony. Why can't one award it during the IOC Session or in a special event during the Games? It disrupts the flow of the ceremony. Even if I'm happy for Mohammad Yunus receiving it.
- In general, there were too many and too long speeches. The OCOG boss, Thomas Bach, Kirsty Coventry, Mohammad Yunus - come on, it's still an opening ceremony, not a sports convention. Thomas Bach's speech was particularly contrived and long-winding. It's obvious that he sees himself as a world politician and tried too hard to regain the sympathies and the understanding of the Japanese people. But I guess that that is a lost cause. And I can't blame the Japanese for that.
- The parade of nations took surprisingly long for the low number of athletes entering. I thought that Rio organised that in a better way, speeding up the parade with the help of the drummers marching behind the delegations. Tokyo, on the other hand, seemed to have a single volunteer marching behind the delegations. I don't want to imagine how long the parade would have taken if there had been more participating athletes.
- The Japanese comedy group acting like a TV team. If you think that you really need to add comedy to a ceremony, it should be funny. But it wasn't - and it was another reason why the ceremony lacked a clear storyline and felt quite jagged and contrived.
- The pictogram segment. After the first 5 pictograms, you got the idea - so it wasn't really necessary to display all 50 of them. Another segment that could have been cut shorter or simply done without. I don't find the invention of the Olympic pictograms in 1964 that sensational anyway.
- The mix of the Kabuki theater performance with the jazz piano performance. I mean, what the heck? What was that supposed to mean? It also felt as if the artistic team suddenly got the idea, "Dammit, we haven't shown much Japanese culture in this ceremony yet, so let's add another segment before the ceremony is over." It felt disconnected.
- Playing Ravel's Bolero during the final legs of the torch relay. Very strange choice for an opening ceremony in Japan, and it didn't raise the excitement for the cauldron lighting either. Furthermore, while I liked the inclusion of the Paralymic wheelchair athlete in the relay, I found it difficult to watch the old baseball player struggling to walk. That segment took far too long and I feared all the time that he might fall with the world watching like the one athlete during the final legs of the torch relay at Rio's Paralympic opening. The cauldron lighting should be the climax of any opening ceremony, and Tokyo was on the verge of botching that important segment, hadn't they chosen such a stirring music and beautiful cauldron design for the lighting itself.
Thanks for bearing with me, I guess that after a pause of three years in these forums, I had too much to talk about. ;)