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Tennis star Naomi Osaka lights cauldron to kick off Olympics

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Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic cauldron and Emperor Naruhito officially declared the Tokyo 2020 Games open on Friday in front of a nearly empty Olympic Stadium, one year after the Games were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Osaka received the Olympic torch after it was carried through the stadium by athletes including baseball legends Sadaharu Oh and Hideki Matsui, a doctor and nurse, and children from the Fukushima region devastated by a 2011 tsunami and earthquake.

“Today is a moment of hope,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in an address at the Opening Ceremony.

“Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined,” Bach said. “But let us cherish this moment. Finally, we are all here together.”

The subdued tone of the ceremony reflected the challenging circumstances under which the Games are being held, with no public spectators allowed at events due to a state of emergency in Tokyo as it struggles to contain a spiking number of COVID-19 cases.

Despite the challenges, the Opening Ceremony was able to deliver some memorable moments using a blend of technology and artistry.

In one sequence, 1,800 synchronized drones hovered over the stadium, transforming from the OIympic rings into an enormous planet Earth, while a children’s chorus sang John Lennon’s “Imagine,” joined by singers from around the world over a video feed, including John Legend, Keith Urban and Angelique Kidjo.

And little could dim the enthusiasm of the athletes making the way through the stadium in the Parade of Nations.

The parade began with Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics, leading the way, followed by the team of refugee athletes. The remaining nations entered the stadium in order according to their names in Japanese.

American athletes came in third to last, just ahead of France and host country Japan, chanting “USA! USA!”

The delegation was led by four-time Olympic basketball champion Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez, a member of the U.S. baseball team who won a silver medal as part of the 5,000-meter, four-man, short-track speedskating team at the Sochi Winter Games in 2014.

The pair wore microphones and were able to speak to NBC hosts Savannah Guthrie and Mike Tirico during the procession

“The energy’s insane,” Bird said. “I know our country’s going through a tough moment, but we all feel unified.”

“I’m freaking out a little bit,” Alvarez said. “It’s so emotional. I’m feeling the energy from my team.”

Team USA athletes wore outfits designed by Ralph Lauren, featuring navy blazers, jeans, striped T-shirts, flag-print scarves and cotton face masks.

Olympic organizers encouraged teams to have two flag bearers this year, in an effort to create a more equitable balance for female athletes. The IOC said that these will be the first Games in history to have almost equal gender representation, with women’s participation at 48.8%.

Russian athletes marched under the name ROC, for Russian Olympic Committee. They are unable to compete under the country name or use their national anthem due to continuing sanctions for running a state-sponsored doping program.

Pita Taufatofua, the shirtless flag bearer for Tonga who rose to social media stardom during the Opening Ceremony at the Rio 2016 Games, made his third appearance for the Polynesian nation.

South Korean athletes entered under very different circumstances from when their country hosted the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018. At those Games, athletes from North and South Korea marched together under a unified peninsula flag, kicking off a period of diplomatic engagement. This year, North Korea is not participating, citing the coronavirus pandemic, while its relations are at a low ebb with the United States and South Korea.

Before the ceremony, U.S. first lady Jill Biden published an open letter in support of the members of Team USA on the NBC News website.

“Your entire nation is cheering you on, and we are grateful for what you’ve given us: the chance to come together in common awe and appreciation for your accomplishments and the shared joy of rooting for our country on the edge of our seats,” she wrote.

Biden is leading the Team USA delegation.

The theme of the Opening Ceremony was “United by Emotion,” and the organizers said they
hoped the event would will “be an experience that conveys how we all have the ability to celebrate differences, to empathize and to live side by side with compassion for one another.”

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies are being held at Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, a site used as the main stadium for the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and was rebuilt as a new stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Games. Athletics events and soccer matches will be held there during the Games.

The Opening Ceremony was broadcast live on Friday morning on NBC. The network will re-air the Opening Ceremony during prime-time coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. EDT

It remains to be seen how Tokyo’s Opening Ceremony will be remembered compared to previous Olympics.

The Opening Ceremony for the Rio 2016 Games took a colorful journey through Brazil’s past and present while sending messages about conservation and climate change.

In 2012, the London Olympics created an unforgettable splash celebrating Britain with sequences including Queen Elizabeth II and James Bond appearing to parachute out of a helicopter and into Wembley Stadium.

The ceremony also has been hit with a round of scandals in the closing hours of its preparation.

The director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, comedian Kentaro Kobayashi, was fired Thursday after a video from a 1998 skit surfaced in which he made jokes about the Holocaust.

Kentaro’s dismissal came on the heels of the resignation Monday of Keigo Oyamada, the musician also known as Cornelius, who was in charge of composing music for the Opening and Closing ceremonies. An outcry emerged around interviews that surfaced in which he admitted to torturing and sexually abusing special needs classmates when he was a student.

Just a handful of world leaders attended the ceremony Friday, including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Notably absent was former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had been instrumental in securing the Olympics for Tokyo before stepping down last year due to health issues.

A number of Japanese business leaders also distanced themselves from the ceremony, with the heads of major sponsors Panasonic and Toyota deciding not to attend.

The Games have been deeply unpopular with the Japanese public, with 55% saying they opposed holding the Olympics and 68% doubting they can be held safely, according to a poll this week by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Source:(UPI)


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FEC approves N836 million augmentation for 38 coronavirus oxygen plants

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The meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday
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The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved N836 million as augmentation for the establishment of oxygen production plants for COVID-19 pandemic intervention across the country.

Newsmen report that the council had in June approved N5.615 billion to four major contractors for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of the 38 oxygen plants in various parts of the country.

Newsmen report that the approval in June followed the Presidential Steering Committee’s (PSC) announcement to increase oxygen reserve capacity in the event of a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the council meeting, on behalf of the Minister of Health, said the approval of the upward review followed a memo presented by the minister of health to the council.

The meeting was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday in Abuja.

The minister said: “The Minister of Health also presented a memo seeking for an upward review for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of the 38 oxygen plants all over the country.

“You will remember in June, the Federal Executive Council, actually approved the sum of N5.615 billion to four major contractors for the emergency supply, installation and maintenance of 38 oxygen plants in various parts of the country.

“Regrettably, the four companies also came back recently with the same complaints ranging from fluctuation in the foreign exchange and the scarcity of the material all over the world as a result of COVID-19.

“So, he presented a memo for augmentation in the sum of N836 million and this was also approved today.

Mohammed disclosed that the council also approved revised estimate costs and extension of the contract of the consultants supervising the Bagwai Water Dam Irrigation project from an initial sum of N98 million to N302.8 million.

“The Bagwai Water Dam Irrigation project in Bagwai Local Government Area of Kano State actually was commenced, the initial contract was actually awarded in the year 2005.

“And due to several logistics problems, the project is still on and just recently the FEC actually approved an augmentation of the entire contract and that means also that the mandate of the consultant supervising the construction would also have to be reviewed.

“So, now the total cost for the consultancy is N302. 9 million.’’

Source: (NAN)


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Osun sensitises herdsmen on anti-open grazing law

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Osun Gov. Gboyega Oyetola
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Osun State government on Wednesday in Osogbo began the sensitisation of herdsmen on the recently-passed anti-open grazing law.

Newsmen report that the sensitisation, which had heads of herders groups in the state in attendance, was organised by the State’s Civic Centre.

Newsmen also report that the House of Assembly passed the Bill entitled: “Bill to Regulate Animal Grazing and Establishment of Cattle Ranches and other Related Matters’’ on Aug. 12.

Gov. Gboyega Oyetola, thereafter, signed the bill into law on Sept. 15.

Speaking at the sensitisation, Special Adviser to Gov. Oyetola on Civic Engagement, Mr Olatunbosun Oyintiloye, said the programme was put in place to sensitise herdsmen on the content of the law.

Oyintiloye said the programme was to let the herdsmen understand that the law was not meant to witch-hunt or segregate them in the state.

“There is need for us to sensitise and enlighten them on the content of the law so that they will not run afoul of it and also to tell them that the law is not to witch-hunt them in form of segregation.

“The programme is also to educate them to operate within the ambit of the law and not to claim ignorance of it,’’ he said.

Oyintiloye, who appreciated the herdsmen on the peaceful coexistence with their host communities, appealed to them to try as much as possible to operate within the law.

He said Gov. Oyetola would continue to provide enabling environment for them to operate and transact their businesses.

In her marks, Mrs Abiodun Ige, Special Adviser to the governor on Security, said farmers and herdsmen should continue to live peacefully in the state.

Ige said that the law would take its course on anyone that ran afoul of it.

“What concerns security in this matter is that anybody that runs afoul of the law, the law will take its course.

“If farmers and herdsmen have been working together peacefully without a problem, we will still advise they work together without any problem.

“But we do not want any breakdown of law and order. If there is anything like that, the law will take its course.

“We have advised that if there is any issue, they should report promptly to security agencies,’’ she said.

The Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Mr Dayo Adewole, said that the law was not to fight herdsmen but to sustain the peaceful coexistence between them and farmers.

In his remarks, Mr Mudashiru Toogun, Chairman, Committee on Peaceful Coexistence between herders and farmers, also urged herdsmen to continue to coexist with the host communities peacefully.

Toogun said that with the law in place, anyone caught practising open grazing would face the law.

In his remarks, the Seriki Fulani in the state, Alhaji Ibrahim Babatunde, said herders believed that the law would be of benefit to them.

Babatunde said that herders would educate one another on the law, adding that they would also continue to live peacefully with their host communities.

He appreciated the governor for providing a peaceful environment for herdsmen to operate in the state.

Source: (NAN)


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AGF: Nigerian government may file fresh charges against Sunday Igboho

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AGF Abubakar Malami
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The Federal Government may file a fresh action against Yoruba secessionist agitator, Sunday Adeyemo (also know as Sunday Igboho), following the judgment of Oyo State High Court which awarded N20 billion in damages in his favour.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York that the federal government had the right to appeal the Judgement or file a fresh charge.

The judge, Ladiran Akintola, had awarded the money as “an exemplary and aggravated damages” against the AGF and the State Security Service (SSS), over the invasion of Adeyemo’s home in Ibadan on July 1.

However, Mr Malami said the position of the federal government on the judgment was about “law and jurisdiction”.

“As far as this matter is concerned, which court is it that has the jurisdiction to determine it? And as you rightly know, obedient to court orders and court judgments,” he said.

“But then you have to understand within the context of such obedience that there are associated rights and interests that are vested in the Federal Government.

“Inclusive of rights of appealing against a judgment, inclusive of the right to file an application for setting aside the purported judgment and order.

“And indeed, inclusive of the possibility of filling a fresh action if indeed the jurisdiction of the court that was alleged to have indeed handed that judgment is an issue.

“So, we are doing the needful in terms of looking at the law as it exists and then working within the context of the law in ensuring that justice is done as far as the contending issues between the parties are concerned,’’ the minister explained.

Mr Igboho’s counsel, Yomi Alliyu, SAN, had filed a N500 billion fundamental human rights enforcement suit against the AGF, SSS and the Director of the SSS in Oyo State over the invasion of his home in Ibadan on July 1.

Mr Alliyu claimed that his client’s house and cars were damaged, while two occupants of the house were killed by SSS operatives during the incident.

However, counsel to AGF, Abdullah Abubakar, had argued that there was no evidence before the court that the blood seen in the video clip tendered by Mr Alliyu belonged to a human being.

Mr Abubakar also said there was nothing in the video clip that showed that the house that was invaded belonged to Igboho or linked the AGF with the invasion.

Mr Adeyemo is still being held in the Republic of Benin where he was arrested some weeks ago while trying to flee to Germany.

Source: (NAN)


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