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Explained: Why India entered 21st at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony: At the Parade of Nations, India will enter 21st of the 205 contingents. How is the order decided? 

Written by Gaurav Bhatt , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
July 23, 2021 9:08:31 am
tokyo olympics, tokyo olympics 2021, tokyo olympics 2020, tokyo olympics india 2021, tokyo olympics 2020 indiaAt the 2016 Rio Games opening ceremony. (File Photo)

At the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, India will be 21st out of 205 contingents in the Parade of Nations. The United Arab Emirates will be among the first 10 entrants, while Australia and Austria will enter after Ukraine and Uruguay.

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: How is the order decided?

The teams enter the stadium in alphabetical order according to the language selected by the organising committee, generally the dominant language in the host city. The announcers first call out a country’s name in French and English — the official languages for the Games according to Rule 23 of the Olympic Charter — and then the chosen language.

For example, at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, nations entered according to the ‘Hangul’ alphabetical order, while at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the Cyrillic alphabet was used.

Are there any exceptions to the rule?

The Parade of Nations always begins with Greece, the host of the ancient Olympics and the first modern one. And the host nation always closes out the ceremony. This year, in order to promote future editions, the IOC wanted the next two Olympic hosts to precede Japan. So, the order at the end on Friday will be 2028 hosts United States, 2024 hosts France and Team Japan.

In another change to the traditional marching order, the Refugee Olympic Team will follow Greece at number two.

What would be the order at the Tokyo Olympics?

The teams will enter according to their names in Gojuon — Japan’s fifty-sound phonetic order, which is also used in dictionaries.

India (Indo in Japanese transliteration) will march in at No. 21, with boxer Mary Kom and men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh as flag-bearers.

The Russian contingent, which has been disallowed to use the country’s name, flag, and anthem due to doping-related sanctions, will compete under the acronym ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) and will be third to enter after Greece and the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR).

According to the Japanese alphabetical order, UAE (Arabu Shuchokoku Renpo) will come before Algeria (Arujeria). Australia (Osutoraria) and Austria (Osutoria) will be No. 37 and 38, respectively, coming after nations such as Uzbekistan (Uzubekisutan) and Uruguay (Uruguai).

Has Japan always utilised the same alphabetical order?

No. Athletes competing at Japan’s past three Olympics — the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo, and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano — marched according to the English alphabet to promote international understanding.

According to the Kyodo news agency, “the decision to thrust the Japanese language into the spotlight at the iconic parade of athletes was made in the hope of promoting Japan’s culture on the world’s biggest stage.”

Has the chosen language led to any notable incidents at past opening ceremonies?

Both Spanish and Catalan were the official languages at the 1992 Barcelona Games. But due to the political sensitivity around the issue of language in the region, the French alphabetical order was used for the Parade of Nations. Not to offend either group, IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch and Barcelona mayor Pasqual Maragall spoke French at the press conference on the opening day instead of Spanish or Catalan.

According to the Chinese stroke system used at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the five athletes from Guinea (几内亚) were the first ones to enter after openers Greece. Australia (澳大利亚) were 202nd, just ahead of Zambia (赞比亚), according to the number of strokes required to write the first character of the country’s names.

At the 2004 Athens Olympics, the Greek team — usually the first to enter — entered last as the hosts. According to the Greek alphabet, the two-athlete strong Saint Lucia (Αγία Λουκία) were the first ones to enter before a crowd of 77,000 — almost half the size of the small island nation’s population.

“It will be an awesome feeling to be the first team into the stadium in front of the world,” marathoner and Saint Lucia flag bearer Zepherinus Joseph told The Guardian on the eve of the ceremony. “Usually, we are at the end of the alphabet and the TV companies go to an ad break when St. Lucia appear, but this time the world will get a chance to see us and our flag.”

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