Glittering gold distracts attention from Covid and scandals
Qian Yang of Team China wins gold medal in women’s 10m air rifle event on day one of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Asaka Shooting Range on July 24, 2021 in Asaka , Saitama, Japan.
Kevin C. Cox | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
Sport spread to Tokyo on Saturday as the Olympics finally began, but the shadow of Covid-19 and controversy was never far away on opening day.
China issued an ominous warning as Yang Qian won the Games’ first gold medal the morning after Japanese tennis world superstar Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron to officially open the extravagance delayed by the pandemic.
The moment had crowned an opening ceremony devoid of glitter and staged in a strangely silent stadium.
But while the ceremony had been like none before, the first day of sports was a much more familiar feeling.
Despite the absence of spectators, the world’s elite athletes ran, rode, fought and swam as a thirsty business-as-usual vibe began to develop.
The sight of an athlete, eyes shining with joy, was always going to be a welcome one for the organizers, and 21-year-old Chinese shooter Yang provided it, keeping her cool in the women’s 10-meter rifle competition for review Anastasiia Galachina.
The Russian collapsed under the pressure on her last shot, shooting 8.9, by far her worst shot of the day, and the worst score of any finalist on record.
“I got too nervous, I held on too long,” she said. “My thoughts were not in the right place. I lost my concentration. The explanation is very simple.
“I had mixed feelings, joy and bitterness at the same time. But now I’m happy. I made a mistake. Nothing too big. It’s going to teach me something, this is a lesson for the future. “
Yang was delighted and referred to her main motivation: “It’s the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party,” she said. “I am so happy that this gold medal is a gift for my country. I am so proud.”
With 11 gold medals up for grabs on day one, organizers hope the sport can distract from the flood of embarrassing blunders and co
vid-19 misfortunes that marked the event, postponed for a year.
But there was no ignoring the global pandemic, as organizers said another athlete had tested positive for the virus, bringing the total number of disclosed cases to 123.
Organizers are also bracing for a typhoon, having already rescheduled Monday’s rowing competitions to make them part of the Saturday and Sunday schedule.
But as the rowers gaze anxiously at the sky, the surfers – who begin their competitions on Sunday – should benefit from bigger swells.
At 12, Syrian Hend Zaza is the youngest athlete competing in Tokyo, but her table tennis tournament ended in a flash when she lost to Austria’s Liu Jia.
12-year-old Syrian Hend Zaza, the youngest competitor of the Tokyo Olympics, in action against Jia Liu of Austria in the women’s singles preliminary round at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics on July 24, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.
Tim Clayton | Corbis Sport | Getty Images
The youngest Olympian since an 11-year-old Spanish rower in 1992, Zaza marked her defining moment by taking a selfie with Liu, at 39, more than three times her age.
Zaza won the West Asia Olympic qualifying tournament in Jordan last year, becoming the first Syrian paddler to qualify for the Olympics.
“Try hard no matter what difficulties you face and you will reach your hope,” she said.
The 3×3 basketball tournament made its debut and the hosts were well beaten by the Russians in the women’s opener.
“From the streets to the Olympics” is the motto of the event, spoken three out of three as basketball seeks to increase its global appeal.
All eyes will be on Tadej Pogacar later as the 22-year-old Slovenian looks to win Olympic road gold less than a week after winning his second straight Tour de France title.
The 234 km road race, including a climb up the iconic Mount Fuji, was to end at the Fuji International Speedway.
Disclosure: CNBC’s parent company, NBCUniversal, owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the US licensee to broadcast all Summer and Winter Games until 2032.