History will be made in more ways than one on Friday, July 23, when the Summer Olympics finally get underway in Tokyo, Japan. (FYI, they’re still being called the 2020 Olympics despite the fact that they’re taking place in 2021.) These will be the first-ever postponed Games, as well as the first to take place amid a worldwide pandemic—which also means they’ll be the first Games without fans in attendance. (Earlier this year, organizers announced a ban on foreign spectators; then in early July, they also decided to prohibit domestic spectators from any events taking place within the Tokyo area.)
If you just can’t wait to watch all the competition, pageantry and history-making unfold, then make sure to reserve yourself a front-row seat (in front of your favorite device, that is) to catch the Olympics’ Opening Ceremony. It’s a traditionally grand event where the host country gets to show off its unique culture before the athletes strut their stuff into the stadium—and below, we’ve rounded up all the info you need about the Olympics Opening Ceremony to get the most out of this momentous celebration.
When is the Olympics Opening Ceremony in 2021?
The Olympics will kick off on Friday, July 23, with the Opening Ceremony taking place at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium at 8 p.m. local time. (A few sports will start competing on July 21, two days before the Opening Ceremonies, including soccer, rowing, archery and softball.) The Games are slated to run for two weeks before concluding with the Closing Ceremony on Sunday, August 8. They’ll be followed by the 2020 Paralympics, which kick off on Tuesday, August 24, and are scheduled to run through Sunday, September 5.
Because Japan is 13 hours ahead of the U.S.’s East Coast and 16 hours ahead of the West Coast, you’ll have to wake up really early if you want to witness the Opening Ceremony live: 7 a.m. ET or 4 a.m. PT, respectively. But don’t worry: The Opening Ceremony will be re-broadcast during primetime hours on the night of Friday, July 23. (Likewise, tons of high-profile Olympic events will air again at night for U.S. viewers.)
Where will the Olympics Opening Ceremony be held?
Tokyo’s Olympics Stadium will be the site of the Opening Ceremony. The venue is brand new, with construction starting in 2016 and finishing in 2019. Despite the fact that it’s a young building, it’s already gone by a few names since its planning stages, including Japan National Stadium and New National Stadium. After the Opening Ceremony has been held and the Games get underway, soccer and track and field are scheduled to take place at Olympics Stadium as well.
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How to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony
How to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony on live TV
For the first time ever, NBC is planning a live, morning-time broadcast of the four-hour Opening Ceremony in the U.S. You can tune in to the network starting at 6:55 a.m. ET/3:55 a.m. PT to see the extravaganza as it happens. If you don’t need a nap once that’s done, you can keep watching NBC for a special, two-hour, Olympic edition of TODAY starting at 11 a.m. ET/8 a.m. PT, which will be followed by three hours of daytime Olympic coverage.
How to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony on primetime TV
The Opening Ceremony will also be rebroadcast on NBC from 7:30 p.m.-12 a.m. ET/4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. PT, followed by an overnight replay from 12:35 a.m.-5 a.m. ET/9:10 p.m.-1:10 a.m. PT.
How to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony on cable TV
If you want to watch the Opening Ceremony somewhere besides network TV, you should have some other options. While NBC has yet to release specific details about which Olympic events will be available on which platforms, they’ve promised that “Tokyo Olympic programming will be available across the networks of NBCUniversal” (which includes USA Network, CNBC and the NBC Sports Network).
How to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony on streaming
NBC has likewise stated that “streaming coverage of the Games will also be available on the digital platforms of NBCUniversal, including the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com.” However, note that access to streaming broadcasts typically means you need to be a paid subscriber to an NBC-partner satellite, cable or streaming service. You can check back at the NBC Olympics online viewing guide as the Games draw closer to find out more.
Who will carry the U.S. flag in Tokyo?
On July 21, Team USA finally revealed that the two competitors who will lead the American pack of athletes into the Opening Ceremony as official U.S. flag bearers will be basketball superstar Sue Bird and baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez. Both athletes boast top-notch resumés. The 40-year-old Bird has helped lead the U.S. women’s national basketball team to four gold medals over the past 16 years (she also happens to be engaged to another Olympics A-lister: soccer star Megan Rapinoe!), while the 31-year-old Alvarez, a first-generation American, not only plays MLB ball for the Florida Marlins; he’s also a onetime Winter Olympian, winning a silver medal in speed skating at the 2014 Games in Sochi!
Bird told TODAY about her fellow teammates selecting her as flag bearer, “To have your peers be the one to kind of see your career and pick you to be the one to lead us in… That’s the best part.” Meanwhile, Alvarez choked back tears while telling the outlet, “To be able to lead Team USA is an absolute honor.”
Why was the director of the Olympics Opening Ceremony fired?
On July 22, the day before the Olympics’ official start date, Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee fired Kentaro Kobayashi from his position as director of the Opening Ceremonies after it came to light that he made light of the Holocaust during a performance at a comedy show in 1998. Olympic organizing president Seiko Hashimoto said in a statement, “We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase [‘Let’s play Holocaust’] ridiculing a historical tragedy. We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.”
What is the theme of the 2020 Olympics?
Good question! It seems the Games’ official motto underwent a redo after Tokyo was declared the 2020 host city way back in 2013.
A year later, in 2014, it was reported that the motto would be “Discover Tomorrow.” However, in February 2020—just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the world—a new (and, coincidentally, very pandemic-appropriate) motto was revealed: “United by Emotion,” along with a video starring Japanese-American tennis star Naomi Osaka.
What is the mascot for the Summer Olympics?
Meet Miraitowa! This checkered character has teleportation superpowers and a name that means “future” and “eternity.” For the 2020 Paralympics, there’s a similar-looking, pink-and-white character named Someity who can fly and send telepathic messages; her name and likeness were inspired by Japan’s famed cherry blossoms. Expect them both to make an appearance during their respective Opening Ceremonies.
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) April 14, 2021
What happens in the Olympics Opening Ceremony?
The event typically begins with the raising of the host nation’s flag and the performance of their national anthem. Japan’s anthem, “Kimigayo” (which roughly translates to “The Emperor’s Reign”), is based on an ancient poem and is believed to be one of the world’s oldest anthems.
Likewise, the Olympic flag (emblazoned with the Games’ iconic, five-ring symbol) is raised and the Olympic Anthem (a.k.a. Olympic Hymn) is performed.
Who will perform at the Olympics Opening Ceremony?
The host country typically brings out its best and brightest singers, dancers and other performers during the Opening Ceremony, but so far, Tokyo organizers have been tight-lipped about who we might see onstage—so expect some surprises! A survey taken in Japan polled people there about which of their favorite stars they’d like to see during the ceremony. Topping the list was famed Japanese electronic must artist Ryuichi Sakamoto. However, less than two weeks before the Tokyo Games were scheduled to get underway, The New York Times reported that the 69-year-old Sakamoto is currently undergoing treatment for rectal cancer; still, the outlet noted that he’s “been as prolific as ever, participating in concerts, exhibitions and most recently an opera, “Time,” which premiered last month at the Holland Festival.”
Another possible performer spoiler? Back in 2019, the official Tokyo Olympics’ Twitter account shared a promo video for the 2020 Games that included a super-short snippet of Hatsune Miku singing, which fans in Japan interpreted as another performance clue. (Listen for it about 10 seconds in.)
Get Ready… pic.twitter.com/2Il0ekb1lU
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 22, 2019
The most surprising part of this possible spoiler? Hatsune Mike isn’t a person, but an illustrated Vocaloid character! Even though she’s not real, she frequently releases music and “appears” in video games and anime.
The music portion of the Opening Ceremonies also weathered some controversy recently when it was announced that music from composer Keigo Oyamada, which was expected to be used during the program, would be scrapped due to remarks he’d made in interviews boasting about bullying his classmates years ago.
What is the Parade of Nations?
The Opening Ceremony really gets underway with the Parade of Nations, which is when all of the athletes march into the stadium behind their nations’ flags. This lengthy procession, featuring more than 200 countries, follows a strict order. Greece always comes first, as it was the first nation to hold an Olympics in ancient times, as well as the site of the first modern Olympics in 1896. The Refugee Olympic team will enter second and the host country always enters last; in between, countries enter alphabetically based on the host country’s language. This year, the U.S. and France will be the last two countries to walk into Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium before Japan’s athletes make their home team entrance. (Keep in mind that the Parade of Nations can take a couple of hours, so prepare to pace yourself at home!)
Once all the athletes have arrived, one representative from the host country’s team takes the Olympic Oath on behalf of all the competitors. The Oath states, “In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.”
Who will light the Olympic torch this year?
One of the most exciting and meaningful moments of any Opening Ceremony is the lighting of the Olympic flame. It’s the culmination of the Olympic torch relay that’s been underway in Japan since March 25 of this year. Who will light the stadium’s cauldron is usually left a mystery until the very end—but it’s usually one of the host country’s most famous athletes of all time. In 1996, when the Summer Games were held in Atlanta, the crowd went wild when legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was revealed as the lighter of the Olympic flame.
After golfer Hideki Matsuyama became the first Japanese winner of The Masters earlier this year, there have been some murmurs that he might receive the honors. “If the schedule works out and I am in Japan when that happens and they ask me, what an honor that would be,” Matsuyama said in response to the rumors. “If I am on the team, and maybe it looks like I will be, I’ll do my best to represent my country, and hopefully I’ll play well.”