From the news desk

The day has finally arrived – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is underway

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As per Olympic Games tradition – after some beautiful dancing and fireworks – the parade of the nations saw the various countries walking out in Japanese alphabetical order, meaning Team South Africa were the 178th country to walk into the stadium.

Due to pandemic restrictions it’s the first time in Olympic history that no domestic or overseas spectators were allowed to attend the games.

All athletes, support staff and media are subject to strict COVID-19 protocols, including regular testing and daily health checks.

Despite there being no fans and all the athletes wearing masks, South Africa’s flag-bearers Chad le Clos and Pumelela Mbande were smiling from ear-to ear as the delayed Olympics finally got under way.

Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa has insisted that there is no pressure on Team South Africa’s contingent, unlike in 2016 when then-Minister of Sports And Recreation Fikile Mbalula gave the team a 10 medal target.

Mthethwa could not travel to Japan due to the ongoing pandemic, but he sent his well wishes to the athletes.

South Africa have a squad of just over 180 athletes, making it the largest contingent the country has ever sent to the Olympics.

Despite there being numerous positive COVID cases in the Olympic village – International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach insisted cancellation is not on the table.

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

Despite the COVID-19 cloud, Japan’s Emperor Naruhito declared the Games open.


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