Pakistan’s flag-bearer flouted COVID-19 norms and marched without a mask at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. Badminton player Mahoor Shahzad and shooter Khalil Akhtar led Pakistan’s delegation at the National Olympic Stadium on Friday. While Shahzad’s mask was under her chin Akhtar’s mask had covered his mouth but not his nose.

Also read: Tonga’s Olympic shirtless flag-bearer is back in all his glistening glory

Ahead of the Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had issued a Playbook that said athletes, who do not follow COVID-19 protocols at the Tokyo Olympics would risk harsh penalties, including expulsion from the Games. 

The message is simple: Follow the regulations when the Olympics begin, or face a warning, a fine, or anything in between.

Not just Pakistan, most members of Team Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were also seen mask-less at the ceremony. The COVID-19 countermeasures, as mentioned in the Playbook, require athletes, presenters and volunteers to wear masks at all times.

  Also Read: Priyanka Chopra cheers for Indian athletes competing at Tokyo Olympics

Unlike the normal opening ceremonies with pomp and show, the one this year saw fewer than 1,000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to ‘be quiet around the venue’. 

With a moment of silence, the ceremony remembered all the people who lost their lives during the pandemic, members of the Israeli delegation killed during the 1972 Munich Games massacre, the 2011 earthquake, Tsunami and the nuclear disaster.

Sania Mirza, the torchbearer of Indian tennis at Tokyo Olympics

Due to rising COVID-19 numbers in Japan, many athletes had to train in isolation and follow strict norms. The ceremony saw athletes from most contingents observing physical distancing. Only a few members from every country’s Olympic team attended the event on Friday. London Olympic medallist Mary Kom and men’s hockey captain Manpreet Singh led the Indian delegation in the Parade of Nations. Only 25 members, 19 athletes and six officials, from the Indian contingent attended the ceremony.