Fans lose the plot as shirtless flag-bearer returns to Olympics

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Pita Taufatofua, pictured here at the opening ceremony in Tokyo.
Pita Taufatofua once again ditched his shirt for the opening ceremony in Tokyo. Image: Getty

You might remember Pita Taufatofua from the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

The Tongan flag-bearer went instantly viral five years ago when he went shirtless to lead his country into the opening ceremony in Rio.

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His oiled-up, ripped rig was beamed to millions around the world, with fans falling in love with the taekwondo athlete.

He even repeated the move at the Winter Olympics in 2018 having qualified in cross-country skiing.

And he was back for more on Friday night at the opening ceremony in Tokyo, once again ditching his shirt and lathering up the baby oil.

Though he’s far from a medal contender in Tokyo, Taufatofua made it back for a third straight Games. 

So naturally he got to carry the flag for a third time - and once again sent social media into meltdown.

But this time he wasn't alone.

Rower Rio Rii, the flag bearer from Vanuatu, also came out shirtless and oiled up to lead his delegation in Tokyo. 

Rii will compete on Saturday in the men's single sculls for Vanuatu, an island nation that sits about 1900 kilometres from Tonga.

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron

Meanwhile, Naomi Osaka was handed the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron - becoming the first tennis player in history to do so.

Organisers paid tribute to medical workers as athletes from across the world paraded into an almost empty stadium, their smiles hidden behind masks for the first time.

Normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, the ceremony was very low-key, with less than 1000 people in attendance, strict social-distancing rules and signs calling on spectators to "be quiet around the venue."

However the ceremony was still climaxed by a superstar appearance, with four-time grand slam champion Osaka bestowed the honour of lighting the cauldron.

Tongan flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua, pictured here at the opening ceremony.
Tongan flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

After being passed from baseball legends to children, the torch was handed to the Australian Open champion Osaka, who walked to the base of the stage, which split open to reveal a set of stairs as the cauldron unfolded like a flower.

She then climbed the stairs and lit the cauldron as fireworks briefly illuminated the sky.

Earlier, President of the organising committee Seiko Hashimoto declared: "With the world in a tough situation because of the coronavirus pandemic, I would like to pay my respect and express my gratitude to medical workers and all those who are working hard every day to overcome the difficulties."

Patty Mills and Cate Campbell led a 63-strong Australian contingent at the ceremony, while hundreds more teammates watched from around the world.

Frontline medical worker and Australian pistol shooter Elena Galiabovitch was given a special honour, chosen as one of the elite half-dozen athletes to bring the Olympic flag into the arena.

Members of the Canada delegation wore patches in the colour of the rainbow, the symbol of the LGBT community, on their jackets.

US first lady Jill Biden clapped the Americans as did France President Emmanuel Macron for the French team.

with AAP

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