What we know about the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics

·4 min read

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is usually a spectacular show, a chance for the host country to welcome the world and show off its culture on a grand international stage.

But this year's opening ceremony, which will mark the official start of the Tokyo Olympics, promises to be a bit different.

As COVID-19 continues to spread, organizers have adjusted course with both the messaging and implementation of this summer's opening ceremony. And plenty of questions remain, even with the ceremony now barely one week away.

Here's everything we know about the opening ceremony so far.

What time is the opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony will take place at 8 p.m. local time on Friday, July 23, at the National Stadium in Tokyo. This translates to 7 a.m. ET.

How can I watch it on TV?

Because of the 13-hour time difference, NBC will broadcast the opening ceremony live in the morning for the first time ever, starting at 6:55 a.m. ET. It can also be streamed on NBCOlympics.com.

The network will then replay the opening ceremony in primetime, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, for those who wish to watch the spectacle in its usual evening time slot.

Will there be spectators?

There will be no fans at the opening ceremony, because of COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo. But that doesn't mean the stadium will be empty.

The Asahi Shimbun, a national newspaper in Japan, reported earlier this month that members of the International Olympic Committee, diplomats, foreign dignitaries and Olympic sponsors will still be permitted to attend the opening ceremony. The newspaper added that about 10,000 or so of these "special quota" members are expected to be on hand.

Tokyo organizers did not respond to questions from USA TODAY Sports about which stakeholders will be permitted to attend, and in what numbers.

A person wearing a protective mask takes a picture from an observation deck as National Stadium, where the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will be held, is seen in the background.
A person wearing a protective mask takes a picture from an observation deck as National Stadium, where the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will be held, is seen in the background.

How many athletes will be there?

This is another question that USA TODAY Sports posed to Tokyo 2020, without receiving a response.

Given the COVID-19 protocols that are in place, it seems unlikely that thousands of athletes will march in the traditional "Parade of Nations," as they have in years past. Many athletes will not be permitted to arrive in Japan until after the opening ceremony concludes.

The numbers of officials who are allowed to participate in the event also will be severely reduced. IOC member John Coates said late last year that only a maximum of six team officials will be permitted to join athletes; It is unclear if that restriction has since changed.

As perhaps a sign of what the opening ceremony could look like, Coates told Australian news outlets last week that he expects roughly 50 athletes to march during the opening ceremony. That's about 10% of its full Olympic delegation of 472 athletes.

What will the ceremony look like?

Little is known about what the opening ceremony will entail, beyond its announced theme: "United by Emotion."

Tokyo organizers announced last week that it will reveal tidbits about the program on social media each day in the week leading up to the ceremony.

The show is likely to reference the challenge of COVID-19, in one way or another, and pay homage to those who have fought the disease. And it will likely be a scaled-back version of the show that would have been performed in the absence of the pandemic.

One thing that is known: According to Japanese news outlet Kyodo News, the marching order for the "Parade of Nations" will be determined by each country's Japanese-language names, in katakana order, rather than alphabetically in English. This is a departure from the past three Games in Japan, according to the outlet.

What will Team USA wear?

Ralph Lauren unveiled Team USA's opening ceremony uniforms, including navy blazers, printed scarves, shoes and even branded masks.

Notably, the uniforms will also feature cooling jackets – battery-powered devices that create a cooling sensation on the back of the neck, as a means of addressing the expected heat in Tokyo.

Which political figures will be there?

Jill Biden's office announced last week that the First Lady will be on hand for the opening ceremony. It will be her second trip to the Games as a U.S. representative; she and her husband, then-Vice President Joe Biden, led the U.S. delegation at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

French President Emmanuel Macron is also expected to be in attendance. France will host the next edition of the Summer Olympics, in Paris in 2024.

It is unclear whether China, which is set to host the Winter Games in February, will send a delegate from its government. Though Kyodo News reported earlier this month that the country might send Vice Premier Sun Chunlan on its behalf.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2021 Olympics: What we know about opening ceremony for the Tokyo Games