Athletes parade wearing smiles beneath their masks

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of the Japanese team wave during the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday.

BEIJING — Speed skater Arisa Go and Akito Watabe, who participates in Nordic combined, led the Japanese delegation in the athletes’ parade during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics on Friday.

Watabe and Go looked relaxed as they shared flag-carrying duties, followed by the rest of the Japanese team. One of Japan’s medal hopes, 17-year-old Anri Kawamura participated in the parade. She made it through the qualifying round in fifth place in the women’s moguls in freestyle skiing on Thursday.

Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita was among the attendees looking on as the masked team members reveled in the occasion, with their face coverings failing to conceal their joy at having reached the Games.

“I have various feelings about the Olympics being held under the current circumstances and being able to perform on this stage,” figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu said. “I think it must have been very difficult to create a safe environment for the athletes. I want to be very careful with my performance and cherish the occasion.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The final torch relay runners set up the torch in the opening ceremony in Beijing on Friday.

“This is my second Olympics and I’m even more excited than last time,” figure skater Kaori Sakamoto said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I will do my best to show the improvement I have made since the last Games four years ago.”

Final torchbearers

The last two torchbearers were Zhao Jiawen, 21, who competes in the men’s Nordic combined, and Uyghur athlete Dinigeer Yilamujiang, 20, who competes in cross-country skiing.

The young athletes, both born in 2001, received the flame that had been carried by distinguished Chinese winter athletes during the relay.

They placed the torch on a snowflake-shaped plinth to mark the end of the relay, with their selection as the final torchbearers seeming to reflect the organizers’ desire to continue the tradition of winter sports across generations.