Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Day 0 - Opening Ceremony
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The virus-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics finally opened with a dazzling display of fireworks and soaring, made-for-TV choreography that unfolded in a near-empty stadium.

IOC president and Japanese emperor attend ceremony

Tokyo 2020 - Opening Ceremony
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Thomas Bach, left, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), stands next to Japanese Emperor Naruhito at the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021. 

Opening ceremony fireworks

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Shuji Kajiyama / AP

With a blaze of indigo and white fireworks lighting the night sky, the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony started.

It began with a single female athlete at the center of the stadium, kneeling. As she stood, the shadow behind her took the shape of a seedling, growing as she walked. A number of athletes were featured in a video that started with the moment Tokyo won the Olympic bid in 2013, then moved eventually to images of a world silenced by the pandemic.
 
Then came the fireworks, a 20-second blast of light.

Team USA marches in

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
David J. Phillip / AP

Athletes from the United States walk during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo on July 23, 2021.

More than 600 athletes from the U.S. were chosen to participate in the Games, though several had to drop out after testing positive for COVID-19.

Team USA flagbearers

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
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Sue Bird and Eddy Alvares, of the United States of America, carry the flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. The two flagbearers were chosen for the honor by a vote of their fellow athletes.

Bird, a four-time gold medalist with the women’s basketball team, is taking part in her fifth Olympics. Baseball player Eddy Alvarez was also a 2014 Olympic silver medalist in speedskating.

Jill Biden attends the opening ceremony

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
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First lady of the United States Jill Biden speaks with French President Emmanuel Macron as they arrive at the opening ceremony.

Britain’s Olympic team parades through stadium

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Patrick Semansky / AP

Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi, of Britain, carry their country’s flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo. 

Athletes parade through nearly empty stadium

Opening Ceremony - Olympics: Day 0
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Flag bearers Jessica Rossi and Elia Viviani of Italy lead their team during the Opening Ceremony at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021.

Opening ceremony choreography

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
David J. Phillip / AP

Dancers perform during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium.

Irish flagbearers parade into the stadium

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Stephen McCarthy

Team Ireland flagbearers Kellie Harrington, right, and Brendan Irvine carry the Irish tricolor during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Athletes paraded into the  stadium, waving but with smiles hidden behind masks. Most nations had both male and female flagbearers for the first time.

Olympic protests amid COVID worries

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Protest
Kantaro Komiya / AP

Anti-Olympic protesters demonstrate near the stadium in Tokyo where the opening ceremony is taking place. 

Hundreds of protesters, many wearing white surgical masks, demonstrated around the venue, Reuters reported. Only a third of the nation have had even one dose of vaccines, prompting worries the Games could become a super-spreader event. More than 100 people involved with the Olympics have already tested positive as the Games began.

Argentina delegation shows enthusiasm

APTOPIX Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
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Cecilia Carranza Saroli and Santiago Raul Lange, of Argentina, right, carry their country’s flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021.

Most groups just walked quietly and waved, but the Argentina delegation bounced up and down, Reuters reported.

Fireworks over Tokyo Olympic Stadium

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Charlie Riedel / AP

A year after it was originally supposed to begin, the COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics finally opened Friday night with a dazzling display of fireworks.

Refugee Olympic Team marches

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
David J. Phillip / AP

Yusra Mardini and Tachlowini Gabriyesos, of the Refugee Olympic Team, carry the Olympic flag during the opening ceremony.  

The team’s 29 athletes include Kimia Alizadeh, who became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal when she took bronze in taekwondo in 2016. Alizadeh, who originally competed for Iran in the Rio Olympics in 2016, was granted refugee status in Germany after fleeing her homeland. 

Iranian team in parade of athletes

OLY-2020-2021-TOKYO-OPENING-IRI
HANNAH MCKAY/AFP via Getty Images

Iran’s delegation enters the Olympic Stadium during Tokyo Olympic Games opening ceremony’s parade of athletes.  Athletes marched into the stadium nation by nation, some socially distanced and others clustering together. 

Dancers perform next to Olympic rings

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Dylan Martinez / AP

Dancers perform in front of the Olympic rings during the opening ceremony in Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium.

There was a moment of silence to honor those lost to COVID-19, with a nod to Japanese tradition represented by wooden Olympic rings linked to the Tokyo 1964 Games.

Protesters demonstrate near opening ceremony

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony Protest
Kantaro Komiya / AP

Anti-Olympic protesters demonstrate near the stadium where opening ceremonies are taking place..

In addition to worries over the coronavirus pandemic, the Olympics have been hit by a string of scandals, including the exit of senior planning officials over derogatory comments about women, jokes about the Holocaust, and bullying.

Smaller, more subdued ceremony

Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony
Hannah McKay / AP

A member of Team Malaysia poses for a photo during the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Summer Olympics on July 23, 2021.

A vastly smaller number of athletes, about 20 per nation, marched in the teams’ parade, with many flying in just before their competitions and due to leave shortly after to reduce the risk of COVID-91 infections.