The spectacular opening ceremony on Friday 23 July 2021 marked the start of the much delayed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The games went ahead despite: the on-going Covid pandemic which affected some athletes and officials in the days leading up to the ceremony; the lack of support from the Japanese public which compelled sponsors such as Toyota to cancel their ads despite spending $3 billion on the games; and, the lack of spectators after they were barred by organisers when Tokyo declared a state of emergency. Only 950 delegates and journalists were in attendance at the main Olympic venue which has a capacity of 68,000.

In true Olympic spirit and casting aside the cloud of negativity surrounding the games, the athletes marched into the Tokyo Olympic stadium for the opening ceremony proudly waving their national flags at the empty seats, knowing that billions of people were cheering them on virtually from every corner of the world. Such is the universal appeal of the most diverse and inclusive game in sports. For the athletes, the night was the culmination of years of training in the pursuit of Olympic glory and the satisfaction of knowing that it had not been in vain – the show must go on.

Team Africa won the fashion stakes at the Olympics opening ceremony

Africa got off to a winning start in the fashion stakes. ONGOLO’s top 10 picks for team uniform were (in alphabetical order): Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Kenya, Liberia and Mauritania.

Team Africa is well represented at the Olympics

Africa is well represented in Tokyo by all 54 countries. Guinea had pulled out citing Covid-19 concerns – though media reports suggested that this may have been due to financial constraints – before doing a last minute U-turn and attending the ceremony.

The largest squads are from South Africa (183), Egypt (142), Kenya (85), Nigeria (63) and Tunisia (63). The smallest squads include the husband-and-wife team from Lesotho and 2-3 person teams from Central African Republic, Comoros and Republic of Congo.

Africa is looking to do better than the 2016 Rio Olympics where the continent bagged a total of 45 medals: 10 gold, 18 silver and 17 bronze medals.

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2016 medals table – World and Africa ranking

The 2016 performance was an improvement from the 2012 London Olympics where countries bagged 40 medals. However, the number of gold medals was higher than 2016 (13).

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2012 medals table – World and Africa ranking

The hunt for medals at the Tokyo Olympics got off to a brilliant start with Tunisia bagging Africa’s first two medals in the first two days of the month long games. The 18 year-old swimming sensation Ahmed Hafnaoui won the 400m freestyle race on day 2 beating the favourites from Australia (Jack McLoughlin) and the United States (Kieran Smith). The shock win came three years ealier than Hafnaoui’s own prediction that he would win his first medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics where he will now be a defending champion rather than contender.

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Ahmed Hafnaoui won Tunisia and Africa’s first gold medal in the

Mohamed Khalil Jendoubi had the honour of winning Africa’s first Olympic medal. Jendoubi won a Silver medal in the Taekwondo 58kg category after beating Ethiopia’s Solomon Demse to advance to the finals.

Well done, Tunisia!

10 African athletes to watch at the Tokyo Olympics

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Elius Kipchoge won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Eliud Kipchoge

Age: 36

Country: Kenya

Sport: Long distance runner. 5000m.

Olympic track record: 2016 Gold medallist, 2008 Bronze medallist. Did not qualify for London 2012

Other championships: London Marathon winner (2015-19 except 2017). Berlin Marathon winner (2015-2018 except 2016).

Fun facts: Kipchoge has been called the greatest marathon runner of the modern era. He holds the world record of 2:01:39 and run 1:59:40 in Vienna in 2019 but this was not recognised

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Faith Kipyegon beat the favourite, Ethiopia’s Genzebe Dibaba, to win the 1500m gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Faith Kipyegon

Age: 27

Country: Kenya

Sport: Middle distance runner. 1500m

Olympic track record: 2016 Gold medallist, finished 21st at London 2012

Other championships: Silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships, Gold medallist at the 2017 World Championships, Silver medallist at the 2015 World Championships

Fun facts: Named one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2017

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Wayde Van Niekerk broke Michael Johnson’s world record at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Wayde Van Niekerk

Age: 29

Country: South Africa

Sport: Sprinter. 200m and 400m

Olympic track record: 2016 Gold medallist in 400m

Other championships: Gold medallist at the 2017 and 2015 World Championships in London and Beijing, respectively

Fun facts: First men in history to run 100m under 10 seconds, 200m under 20 seconds and 400m under 44 seconds

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Hellen Obiri has won the gold medal at the World Championships in 2017 and 2019

Hellen Obiri

Age: 31

Country: Kenya

Sport: Long distance runner. 3000m and 5000m

Olympic track record: 2016 Silver medallist in 5000m, finished 12th in 2012

Other championships: 5000m Gold medallist at the 2019 and 2017 World Championships

Fun facts: Named one of the Top 100 most influential Africans by New African magazine in 2017

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Nigel Amos won Botswana’s first and only Olympic medal

Nigel Amos

Age: 27

Country: Botswana

Sport: Middle distance runner. 800m

Olympic track record: 2012 Silver medallist. Failed to qualify for the semi-finals in 2016.

Other championships: Gold medallist at the 2016 and 2018 African Championships

Fun facts: Amos’ Silver medal in 2012 was Botswana’s first and only medal

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Inès Boubakri made history for Arab women when she won a bronze medal in 2016

Inès Boubakri

Age: 32

Country: Tunisia

Sport: Fencing

Olympic track record: 2016 Bronze medallist

Other championships: 2018 Bronze medallist at the World Championships

Fun fact: Boubakri is married to French fencer Erewann Le Péchoux who also won a medal at the 2016 Olympics

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Joshua Cheptegei plans to bring home the gold for Uganda

Joshua Cheptegei

Age: 24

Country: Uganda

Sport: Long distance runner. 5000m and 10000m

Olympic track record: Finished 6th in the 10000m and 8th in the 5000m in 2016

Other championships: Gold medallist at the 2019 and 2017 World Championships

Fun fact: In 2020, he became the 10th men in history to hold both the 5000m and 1000m world records

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South African gold medal hopeful, Tatjana Schoemaker

Tatjana Schoenmaker

Age: 24

Country: South Africa

Sport: Swimming. 100m and 200m breaststroke

Olympic track record: None. Did not qualify in 2016

Other championships: Gold medallist in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

Fun fact: she is currently the fastest breaststroke swimmer this year

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Burkina Faso’s gold medal hopeful, Hugues Fabrice Zango

Hugues Fabrice Zango

Age: 28

Country: Burkina Faso

Sport: Triple jump

Olympic track record: Finished in 34th place in 2016

Other championships: Bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships

Fun facts: Set the World indoor triple jump world record of 18.07m in 2021

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Marie-Josée Ta Lou is one of Africa’s top female sprinters. Will she finally win a medal in what could be her last Olympics?

Marie-Josée Ta Lou

Age: 32

Country: Cote d’Ivoire

Sport: Sprinter. 100m and 200m

Olympic track record: Finished 4th in both the 100m and 200m in 2016

Other championships: Bronze medallist in 100m at the 2019 World championships. Silver medallist in 100m and 200m at the 2017 World Championships

Fun facts: she studied medicine at the Université d’Abobo-Adjamé in Abidjan

ONGOLO live Olympics updates on Team Africa

Follow us on Twitter (@ongolo_africa) for regular updates on Team Africa and the medals table.

#Team Africa #ProudlyAfrican

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