Hamaguchi leads in Japan

Wrestler bears nation's flag in opening ceremony


Japan’s top athletes took part in a spectacular opening ceremony at the Athens Olympics on Friday, led by five-time world champion wrestler Kyoko Hamaguchi as the nation’s flag bearer.

Hamaguchi led about 200 of her teammates, dressed in white suits or floral-pattern dresses, into the Olympic Stadium that was packed with 75,000 spectators.

The opening ceremony involved about 16,000 athletes and officials from 202 countries.

“I was very impressed,” said Hamaguchi. “As I was able to serve as flag bearer in front of such a huge crowd, I think I won’t be nervous during the competition.”

Men’s judoka Kosei Inoue, captain of Japan’s largest-ever delegation of 513 athletes and officials, said, “The heat in the stadium was awesome.”

“I was happy seeing many Japanese flags in the crowd,” said Inoue, who was flag bearer at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

“I really enjoyed the opening ceremony. But from tomorrow I will seriously concentrate on table tennis,” said 15-year-old table tennis player Ai Fukuhara, who will make her mark as the youngest woman to appear in the table tennis competition at Athens on Saturday.

Japan’s No. 1 tennis player Ai Sugiyama said, “It was the first time I had experienced an opening ceremony and I was moved by it, as I thought I would be.”

Swimmer Genki Imamura, meanwhile, said the ceremony was “beyond his expectations” and he was astonished by it.

Misaki fails to qualify

ATHENS (Kyodo) Japan’s Hiromi Misaki failed to qualify for the women’s 10-meter air rifle final Saturday after finishing a disappointing 22nd in the qualification round of the event at the Athens Olympics.