Top moments from the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony


(NBC Olympics) — Though some competition has already begun, the Tokyo Olympic Games officially, finally get underway Friday night with the Opening Ceremony. 

The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo is hosting the first major global gathering since the global pandemic began last year and will see special performances, pageantry and the Parade of Athletes during the ceremony. Among the plans in store that will feature on the NBC broadcast: Leslie Odom Jr. will tell the story of the hopes and dreams of Olympians in an opening vignette, Dwayne Johnson will introduce Team USA, and Uma Thurman will narrate a special feature leading into the Parade of Athletes. 

Award-winning journalist and co-anchor of TODAY Savannah Guthrie will join NBC Olympics’ primetime host Mike Tirico to host the Opening Ceremony on NBC.

SEE MORE: How to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games

Watch LIVE on TV: NBC, 6:55 a.m. ET / 3:55 a.m. PT

Stream LIVE on and the NBC Sports app

Primetime Coverage: NBC, 7:30 p.m. ET / 4:30 p.m. PT

Stream on and the NBC Sports app

Follow along below as we take you through all the top moments of the Opening Ceremony, from staples like the lighting of the Olympic flame to the biggest spectacles and surprises. 

Opening sequence

The ceremony opens with a video featuring geometric shapes drawn on a blackboard in chalk, which gradually turn into the Olympic Stadium. The chalk art in the first half is a stop motion animation which took 10 days to film and involved repeatedly drawing and erasing approximately 400 images of solid objects on a single blackboard.

The video then transitions into a live action shot of the Olympic Stadium. Then, it cuts to a live action shot of the field where a lone female athlete stands at the bottom of a seed projected onto the field. It then transitions into a countdown from 2013, when Tokyo won the bid to host the Games, to now.

The final second of the countdown was a bird’s-eye view shot of the Olympic Stadium, which was then surrounded by fireworks for about 20 seconds.

Next, we see a lone female athlete silently running on a treadmill, who becomes surrounded by other lone athletes, all connected by light projections mean to represent an “invisible bond.” The lone running athlete is Arisa Tsubata, a middleweight boxer who is also a nurse and treated COVID-19 patients (Tsubata dreamt of qualifying for the Olympics but her plans were cut short when the last boxing qualifier was called off due to the pandemic).

In the final scene of the performance, dancers used pieces of elastic to represent bodily movements and a “web of emotions,” before the focus transitions back to Tsubata, again running alone.

Nurse/boxer Arisa Tsubata performs during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Jewel SAMAD / AFP) (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP via Getty Images)

“The Rhythm of Tradition” Performance

The performance begins with the “Kiyari Uta,” a work song that’s been sung since Japan’s Edo period, performed by members of the Edo Firemanship Preservation Association. Dancers dressed as carpenters begin “woodworking” on large wood tables.

Giant wooden rings, four meters in diameter, are carried onto the stage and surrounded by large displays of paper lanterns. The rings are pulled together to form – gasp! – the Olympic Rings. The rings are made out of lumber from trees planted by athletes from each of the participating nations in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

For the 1964 Games, athletes from each participating nation brought seeds to Tokyo to be planted as commemorative trees, which were then distributed throughout Japan to areas where they could best grow.

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 23: Perfomers are seen dancing infront of the Olympic Rings during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

Parade of Athletes

Athletes are entering the stadium to songs from famous Japanese video games. The signs bearing nations’ names were meant to look like speech bubbles from manga comics. The entrance order is alphabetized in the host nation’s language, with the host nation going last.

Greece led the way, followed by the refugee team.

For the first time ever, each nation has two flagbearers – a male and a female representative. That doesn’t mean two flags, however. Instead, the flagbearers are finding creative ways to share one flag pole.

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 23: Flag bearers Sofya Velikaya and Maxim Mikhaylov of Team ROC lead their team in during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

The Argentinian delegation came through with what will almost definitely be the entrance of the night, jumping up and down in a coordinated mob as it moved onto the field.

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