Team South Africa had a tough start on the first day of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games in Japan. Judoka Geronai Whitebooi lost her opening bout in the 48-kg division to 2016 gold medallist, Paula Pareto of Argentina.

Pareto won with an Ipon. South Africa’s rowers also failed to advance to the semi-finals and their hopes will now be pinned on qualifying for the final through the repechage.

The men’s pairs of Luc Daffarn and Jake Green finished fifth in their heat, more than 30 seconds behind winners Romania.

The men’s fours could not better that achievement and also had to settle for fifth place, also more than 30 seconds behind winners, Australia.

Three South African cyclists are currently involved in the men’s road race, while two South African swimmers, the two hockey teams and the women’s water polo team will be in action later on Saturday.

Athletes parade in an empty stadium as Tokyo Games open in the shadow of  the COVID-19 pandemic

In an opening ceremony marked by simplicity, one tradition held on Friday – athletes from all over the world paraded into the Olympic stadium to represent their nations, for the first time their smiles hidden behind masks and most countries represented by both male and female flagbearers.

But the opening ceremony, normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, lacked the usual glitz with fewer than 1 000 people in attendance, strict social distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to “be quiet around the venue.”