Parents of Irish Olympians say they’re ‘delighted and relieved’ the Tokyo Games have finally gotten underway, after over a year of uncertainty.
The Olympic Games officially got underway today with the opening ceremony at Japan's Olympic Stadium.
Team Ireland - led by flag bearers Kellie Harrington and Brendan Irvine - took part in the Parade of Nations alongside more than 200 other teams.
Over 100 Irish athletes will compete across 19 sports over the next two weeks.
The games are going ahead despite a COVID-19 state of emergency in Japan, and the events will be taking place in mostly empty stadiums.
Despite the restrictions, today marks a moment of celebration and relief for the athletes taking part, after the Games were postponed by an entire year due to the pandemic.
Irish hockey player Chloe Watkins is one of the Irish Olympians competing in Tokyo, and her dad Gordon spoke to Lunchtime Live.
He said: “It has been a long time building up to this. It is exciting, and I’m delighted and relieved really it’s all going ahead.
“Some of them have put in a lot of hard work, and if it had been cancelled for any reason it would have been devastating.”
He said the family has been lucky enough to make it to previous major tournaments, and they had hoped to travel to Tokyo.
Despite that disappointment, however, they’re “just delighted” the Games are now underway.
“I’m beginning to get very excited"
Louise Shanahan is a member of the Athletics team, and her mother Liz also spoke to the show.
She said: “I’m beginning to get very excited.
“Louise got her spot there just a few short weeks ago, so I don’t think it really registered with me until the last few days that she’s actually in Japan and competing in the Olympics.”
Liz said taking part in the Olympics has always been a goal for her daughter, but the 2020 Games may not have been on the cards if they proceeded as originally planned last year.
She said: “She’s done extremely well and worked very, very hard and nabbed one of these special spots.
“These athletes across all sports have worked so incredibly hard to take part - to qualify first of all, and then to actually get there.
"The last couple of weeks… you have to be so careful because of COVID. They’ve had to do multiple PCR tests, isolation… they’ve been extraordinary, the whole group of them.”
Liz said she has no regrets about not being in Tokyo herself, as it was “just not possible” in the current circumstances.
Instead, families and fans will be cheering on Team Ireland remotely.
Louise will be competing in the 800 metre next Friday morning (July 30th), “very early in the morning” Irish time.
The women’s hockey team, meanwhile, will be playing their first match (against South Africa) at 1:15pm Irish time tomorrow, Saturday 24th July.