The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony arrived at long last after a year of delays due to the pandemic, imparting a range of emotions with a moment of silence for the victims of COVID-19, breathtaking artistic performances and athletes’ joy in the Parade of Nations. The Games officially began after Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic Cauldron.
“Today is a moment of hope,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said. “It is very different than what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment. Finally, we are all here together.”
Athletes who brought ebullience to the world stage. Team Argentina lit things up early with cheering. Team USA’s ebullience could hardly be contained as beaming athletes chanted “USA! USA! USA”
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More than 1,800 drones seamlessly morphing into a revolving globe over the stadium was a stunning moment. Singers from around the world, including John Legend and Keith Urban, joined choir students in singing “Imagine" before Japan's emperor officially opened the Games.
There is already plenty of action underway at the Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. women’s softball team won their opening match against Italy, while the women’s soccer team was stunned by Sweden, suffering a 3-0 defeat and snapping a 44-match unbeaten streak.
The Opening Ceremony will be replayed during primetime Friday evening — watch at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC4. Here is what you need to watch in Tokyo during the Opening Ceremony, plus one final pre-Opening Ceremony event.
Who will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony?
The Japanese Olympic Committee hasn’t announced who will light the cauldron, but there are some great candidates.
Japan could give the honor to golfer Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese man to win a golf major when he won the Masters in April.
Or they could go a more symbolic route, finding a current or former Olympian who recovered from COVID-19. At the 1964 Tokyo Games, runner Yoshinori Sakai had the honor. He was born on August 6, 1945, the day that the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
Watch delayed on NBC during prime time at 7:30 p.m. ET or on digital platforms here.
Who is the flag bearer for Team USA?
Women's basketball star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez were chosen to be the flag bearers for Team USA. It was announced on Wednesday’s episode of "TODAY" that the four-time WNBA champion and MLB infielder would lead the United States in the Parade of Nations.
Bird is no stranger to international competition. She has four Olympic gold medals and has won an additional four gold medals at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup.
Alvarez will look to add to his Olympic medal collection as well. Although he does not have Olympic baseball experience, Alvarez won silver in short track speed skating during the Sochi Olympics. He played for the Miami Marlins in 2020, and is in their minor league system this season.
Team USA in the Parade of Nations
More than 600 American athletes are expected to be in Tokyo and are ready to compete at the highest level. Not all of them will take part in the Parade of Nations, as many events are already underway or will take place the morning after the Opening Ceremony.
At the Opening Ceremony, nations march in according to alphabetical order in Japanese, following the custom of using the host country’s language to determine the order. But this year’s Parade of Nations will have a few special features as well.
The United States will be featured at the end of the parade order. Japan will be the parade’s grand finale, and future Olympic host countries will march just before the host nation. France, host of the 2024 Paris Olympics, will precede Japan, and the United States, hosts of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, will go before France.
Team USA wears Ralph Lauren at the Opening Ceremony
Ralph Lauren, which has been dressing Team USA since 2008, unveiled this year’s Opening Ceremony uniforms last week. The outfits for Tokyo fit the designer’s preppy, Americana aesthetic perfectly.
The United States Olympic team s on traditional navy blazers, complete with a Team USA patch on one breast and Ralph Lauren’s famous Polo Pony logo on the other.
As shown on beach volleyball players, Alix Klineman and April Ross, below, Team USA pairs the blazers with a Breton striped shirt, a neck scarf printed with stars and stripes, as well as a belt that was made from recycled plastic bottles. Ralph Lauren also designed solid navy masks with a tiny American flag for the United States Olympic athletes to wear.
The flag bearer’s jacket also has a sustainable feature: RL COOLING technology, a personal air conditioning system built into the garment.
“Through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Ralph Lauren celebrates America’s pioneering spirit and tradition, while embracing modernity and innovation — and it is with that ethos in mind that we approached the development of the RL COOLING technology,” said David Lauren, Ralph Lauren Corporation’s chief brand and innovation officer.
“Recognizing Tokyo’s summer heat, we sought to develop a solution for Team USA that fuses fashion and function — allowing them to look and feel their best on one of the world’s biggest stages.”
Rowing kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET
Competition begins tonight for rowers in the sculling events. You can stream it live here beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Although no American men qualified in sculls, the American women could make it to the medal podium in both the single and double sculls. Kara Kohler is competing in the single, in which she won the world championship in 2019, and hopes to add a medal to her bronze from the quadruple sculls team in 2012. Gevvie Stone, who was the silver medalist in single sculls in Rio, is teaming up with Kristi Wagner in double sculls.
On the quadruple sculls team, Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary -- who won doubles together in 2016 -- are joined by newcomers Alie Rusher and Cicely Madden.
Tonight’s competition is preliminary heats - no medals will be awarded in rowing until July 27.
Watch live at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or on digital platforms here.
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