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Tokyo Olympics kicks off today; India and Ireland have sent their largest-ever contingent; everything you need to know…

TOKYO: There are only hours left to start the mega event that the sports world has been waiting for five years. The 32nd Olympics will kick off on Friday, July 23 in Tokyo, Japan. Preparations for the Olympics have been completed and athletes from various countries are arriving. The opening ceremony will start today at 4.30 pm Indian time.

The Olympics was originally scheduled to take place last year, but was postponed to this year owing to the pandemic. The inaugural function as well as the matches will be held under strict restrictions as the COVID-19 threat persists. There will be no usual opening celebrations tomorrow, which used to astound the globe. Officials said there will be only traditional Japanese-style celebrations.

Only six officials per team and a few athletes will be allowed in the March past. Spectators will also be barred from attending opening ceremonies and sporting events. The ceremony will be held at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

This Olympics will make history in gender justice. All teams will have male and female players as flag bearers for the first time. It is also confirmed that women would take part in the oath-taking ceremony.

The inauguration ceremony will be attended by senior Japanese officials. The event will be inaugurated by Emperor Naruhito of Japan. Leaders from 15 countries, including French President Emmanuel Macron, will attend the ceremony. The Tokyo Olympics 2021, which will feature over 11,000 athletes, will conclude on August 8. Team events, including soccer, have already begun ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

India at Tokyo Olympics

Only a handful of athletes and six officials will be representing India at tomorrow’s opening ceremony. The Indian contingent will be led by flag bearers MC Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh. India stands at serial number 21 in the march past, according to the Japanese alphabet.

This time, India has sent its largest-ever contingent to the Olympics. The 228-member team is composed of 127 athletes from 22 different states. Apart from coaches, team officials, and others, the delegation comprises of 68 male athletes, 52 female athletes, 58 team officials, 43 alternate athletes, and other officials of 8 contingent staff.

Archery, Athletics, Boxing, Badminton, Equestrian, Fencing, Golf, Gymnastics, Hockey, Judo, Rowing, Shooting, Sailing, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Weightlifting, and Wrestling will be among the 18 disciplines in which India will compete. Indian athletes will compete for 85 medal possibilities.

India’s top medal contenders

Shooting: The 15-member Indian shooting team is expected to bring home a large number of medals. Manu Bhaker and Saurabh Chaudhary are the country’s biggest hopes.  

Badminton: PV Sindhu is India’s top medal prospect in badminton. The 21-year-old won a silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics and won a billion hearts. She was crowned World Badminton Champion in 2019.

Boxing: Mary Kom, also known as the Iron Lady, is a medal contender for India in boxing. She won a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics. She participates in the Flyweight section (51kg).

Weightlifting: Mirabai Chanu is India’s lone weightlifter at the Tokyo Olympics. Chanu won gold at the World Weightlifting Championships in 2017, then gold at the Commonwealth Games a year later and bronze at the Asian Weightlifting Championships in 2019.

Archery: Deepika Kumari, the current world number one in the women’s recurve category, is a strong contender for a medal in Tokyo. She won three gold medals at the Archery World Cup in Paris last month. Kumari has won nine gold, 12 silver and seven bronze medals at various World Cups.

Ireland at Tokyo Olympics

The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will begin at 12 pm Irish time. Irish boxers Kellie Harrington and Brendan Irvine will be Ireland’s flagbearers. Both of them stated that it is an honour to represent their country in the Olympics.

Kellie Harrington who competes in her debut Olympics said: “It’s an amazing honour, there are so many athletes out here, and to be chosen as one of the flagbearers is absolutely fantastic. I can’t believe it really. Walking out there and realising I’m the flagbearer, it’s the start of the Olympic Games, and I’m at the pinnacle of our sport.”

Brendan Irvine, the Irish boxing team’s captain, will compete in the flyweight category. He also represented Ireland in the last Olympics in Rio.

Ireland has sent its largest delegation ever, with a final quota of 116 members. The country now has qualified representatives in 19 sports, 5 more than the previous high (14 in 2012). The number of athletes representing Ireland has also increased to 100, up from 80 in the previous Olympics.

Divers, golf, gymnasts, road cyclists, boxing, sailing, triathletes, modern pentathlon, hockey, rowing, track cycling, badminton, equestrian, judo, rugby, swimming, taekwondo, weightlifting, and shooting will be among the 19 sports in which Ireland will compete.

Ireland’s top medal contenders

Rowing: Fintan McCarthy & Paul O’Donovan

Boxing: Kellie Harrington

Taekwondo: Jack Wooley

Sailing: Annalise Murphy

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