Your Monday Briefing

The Olympics begins

The Tokyo Games opened on Friday to a sea of empty seats and a somber opening ceremony that tried to project a world moving on from the worst of Covid-19. Naomi Osaka, Japan’s most famous athlete, lit the Olympic cauldron.

The Japanese public is widely opposed to the Games. In quieter moments throughout the ceremony, protesters outside the stadium could be heard yelling “Stop the Olympics” through bullhorns. And NBC says that only 17 million people watched the opening ceremony, a record low for a Summer Olympics.

For Japan itself, its diverse Olympic stars, like the multiracial athletes Osaka and Rui Hachimura, are helping to redefine what it means to be Japanese. But they are often still seen as outsiders.

Over the course of the next two weeks, more than 11,000 athletes from 205 different Olympic teams are expected to participate. Here are live updates and our medal count.

In other Olympics news:

Jordan, Vietnam and other countries that field relatively few athletes have turned to taekwondo to win medals.

The U.S. men’s basketball team fell to France, 83-76, in its opening game on Sunday night.

Italy and pizza. Norway and salmon. Romania and … Count Dracula? A South Korean broadcaster apologized for airing “inappropriate” images.

Here are photos from the second day of competition.

In Nagorno-Karabakh, tragedy and transformation

The disputed territory recaptured by Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts is now being transformed with breathtaking speed.

Anton Troianovski, our Moscow correspondent, made a four-day journey across Azerbaijan’s recaptured lands, visiting some sites not seen by Western reporters since last year. The trip revealed a region still defined by enmity, even as it is rebuilt with breathtaking speed.

At one medieval monastery, the only place where Armenians are known to have remained, the walls are masked with camouflage netting, machine-gun nests line the courtyard under a fluttering Russian flag and cannons mounted on armored vehicles guard the mountainside where tour buses used to park.

First person: “When I came to Nagorno-Karabakh after the war last year, the sight of a hillside Armenian military cemetery brought to my mind the layers of tragedy embedded in this land,” writes Anton. “After returning in June, I left wondering just how much heartbreak a patch of earth can bear.”

The Palestinian soccer team felled by the virus

For the residents of Wadi al-Nis, a tiny, pastoral village in the occupied West Bank, the coronavirus has aggravated the already hardscrabble circumstances in the village, where many people suffer from poverty and inconsistent employment.

One such casualty is the team’s soccer team, traditionally a West Bank powerhouse, which will be downgraded next season to the second division. For most of its 37-year existence, the team has played in the territory’s most prestigious league. It won the top division championship in 2009 and 2014.

The financial crisis spurred by the virus has curtailed sponsorships for many Palestinian clubs. For the team in Wadi al-Nis, the loss of about $200,000 in government and private sector sponsorships was ruinous, and has meant the team can no longer practice at rented fields in neighboring towns.

Quotable: “We were called the king of the championships. We won cup after cup after cup and we would celebrate them in the center of town like we do during weddings,” said one veteran defender. “Now, the streets are empty and quiet and the feeling of despair is palpable.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

Caseloads are plunging in Britain — as previously happened in India — suggesting the Delta variant may fade more quickly than initially feared.

Children in Indonesia, many of whom are under 5, are dying of Covid-19 at an alarming and unusual rate.

The E.U.’s drug regulator authorized the Moderna vaccine for children 12 and older.


Around the World

The top American general in Afghanistan suggested that airstrikes may continue, even with the allied troop pullout largely completed. Above, Capt. Sher Agha Safi coordinating an airstrike by Afghan forces on a Taliban position near Lashkar Gah in May.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq went to Washington this weekend to demand that President Biden withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq. The U.S. will most likely oblige.

A landslide in northern India killed at least nine people, many believed to be tourists, and destroyed a bridge.

Sierra Leone became the 23rd African country to abolish the death penalty.

News From Europe

Thousands of people attended the Budapest Pride march on Saturday, defying efforts by the government to marginalize the country’s L.G.B.T.Q. community.

Critics say new French laws designed to strengthen the country’s ability to fight terrorism curtail civil liberties.

Spain has said it would give citizenship to descendants of Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition, but it is rejecting thousands of applications.

Amateur fossil hunters in England found an exceptionally large and well-preserved group of Jurassic starfish using Google Earth.

Tech News

Back-alley disinformation firms meddle in elections and promote falsehoods on behalf of clients who can claim deniability, escalating our era of unreality, our columnist writes.

As the world moves toward electric, the hybrid car manufacturer Toyota is fighting climate regulations in an apparent effort to buy time.

President Biden has stacked his administration with antitrust crusaders who have spent their careers challenging corporate consolidation — a sign of his willingness to promote competition in the tech industry and beyond.

A Morning Read

After the coronavirus pandemic pushed religious groups to explore new ways to operate, Facebook is now hoping to become the virtual home for faith-based community in a marriage of Big Tech and religious experience. Above, Lhoppön Rinpoche led a live Facebook meditation from the Mipham Shedra Buddhist temple in Westminster, Colo., last year.

“Our hope is that one day people will host religious services in virtual reality spaces as well, or use augmented reality as an educational tool to teach their children the story of their faith,” said Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s chief operating officer.


Do video games need a new name?

We’re in the middle of a transformation in online idle time, a shift from passive doomscrolling to something more engaging and often more social.

Interactive activities are blurring the lines between video games and other social activities. Games like Pokémon Go, Fortnite and Among Us host hangouts for friends, pop culture moments and political organizing. In so doing, they’re redefining what a “video game” is.

And it’s not just gaming companies experimenting with interactivity. Zoom has new features that include poker, trivia and mystery games. Peloton will make a game where pedaling can command a rolling virtual wheel. Netflix plans to add video games.

“It feels as if something exciting is happening,” my colleague Shira Ovide writes in our On Tech newsletter. “There’s more mushing together to arrive at new digital forms that emphasize interaction rather than passive reading, watching or listening.”


What to Cook

This one-pot zucchini and basil pasta has brightness and texture galore.

What to watch

Tig Notaro’s animated stand-up special seeks to “visually delight and surprise you throughout the 55 minutes,” its director says.

What to Listen to

Enjoy new music from Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow on our pop critics’ latest playlist.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Computer devices so-named for their cords, which suggest tails (four letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a great Monday. — Natasha

P.S. The Times and other U.S. media companies have delivered letters to Congress and the Biden administration, requesting urgent humanitarian aid for Afghan journalists and staff members who worked with American outlets.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the E.U.’s plan to wean off fossil fuels.

Amelia Nierenberg wrote today’s Arts and Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at [email protected].

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