• Kyodo

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The Tokyo Games organizing committee has decided the marching order at next year’s opening ceremony’s parade of nations will be determined using Japanese-language names and Japan’s “50-sound” phonetic order, sources close to the games said Thursday.

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 when the postponed Olympics start on July 23.

Athletes from participating nations in Japan’s past three Olympics — the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano — all marched according to English alphabetical order to emphasize international understanding.

Sources said that Tokyo Games organizers decided to use Japanese this time in coordination with the Japanese government and notified each National Olympic Committee of the plan at a meeting earlier this month. Details of the order will be announced sometime before the games.

It has also been decided that Japanese athletes names’ written in the Roman alphabet will appear in Olympic television broadcasts with their surname first, followed by their given name — the same order used when names are written in Japanese.

International Olympic Committee guidelines stipulate that Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, is the first to march in the parade, while the host country marches last. The remaining countries and regions usually march in alphabetical order according to the host country’s language.

The marching order the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil was determined using the Portuguese language, while Korean was employed at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

In December 2019, before the Olympics were postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the IOC announced some changes to the traditional marching order for Tokyo, with the Refugee Olympic Team to follow Greece.

In order to promote future Olympics, the IOC wanted the hosts of the next two Summer Games to march at the end. In that way, the 2028 host, the United States, would be followed by 2024 host France before Japan’s team brings the parade to a climactic finish.

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