CAPE TOWN – Feel it, it is here! The Tokyo Olympics were officially launched with the opening ceremony on Friday at the Tokyo Stadium, with South Africa’s flag-bearers Chad le Clos and Phumelela Mbande leading out the men and women from Mzansi with pride.
South Africa were listed at No 178 for the ‘Parade of Nations’ procession, which was according to the Japanese alphabet, with 205 countries in total walking out to showcase their cultural identity – although it had to be done with no spectators in the magnificent arena due to Covid-19 protocols.
Swimmer Le Clos and hockey player Mbande held the South African flag-pole and waved it around, with the team members clad in black and white striped shirts that resembled zebras, coupled with khaki shorts and veldskoen shoes.
Not all of the over 180-strong South African team were present, with one notable absentee being 400m world record-holder Wayde van Niekerk, who has yet to arrive in the Japanese capital.
“We going live in about 2hours time, I’m so excited,” Le Clos said on social media on Friday.
When he was named as one of the two flag-bearers, the four-time Olympic medallist said: “What an incredible honour, I will remember this forever, just been named flag bearer along with @phumz024 for tomorrow’s opening ceremony. Nothing makes me prouder than to lead team into this @olympics thank you and god bless.”
Mbande, who is a goalkeeper in the SA women’s hockey team, posted on social media: “What an honour to be named alongside @chadleclos92 as the @team_mzansi flag bearer for the @olympics opening ceremony tomorrow! What an incredible feeling!! The greatest honour and the most special privilege. I hope to make you all proud to be South African.”
The first nation on to the track was Greece, followed by the Refugee Olympic Team, Iceland and Ireland. South Africa were preceded by the Federated States of Micronesia, and followed by South Sudan.
The last three nations were the United States, France and hosts Japan.
Each continent were represented by an influential figure when the famous song Imagine, by John Lennon, was played, with Benin singer and songwriter Angelique Kidjo singing on behalf of Africa, along with Alejandro Sanz, John Legend and Keith Urban.
A colourful fireworks display followed, where after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach invited Japanese Emperor Naruhito to declare the Games open, which he duly did.