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Opening ceremony Tokyo Olympics 2021 as it happened: performances, flag bearers by country...

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - July 23, 2021. General view of the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: as it happened

The Games are on!

Let the games begin!

Osaka lights the final flame. The final fireworks display takes off as the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony comes to an end. 

Osaka owns four major titles. The torch is now in her hands.

Naomi Osaka waits for the flame.

It has to be passed two more times before it goes to its final destination. A paralympic athlete currently has it. She will pass it onto a group of school students. 

A couple of Japanese health workers take the flame from the three baseball players. They go on a run with the flame, waving to athletes in the centre of the arena. 

The Olympic flame has now been passed to three former Japanese baseball players. 

2,000 people have passed the torch along and it's now down to the final few. 

The Olympic torch

The torch arrived in Tokyo on July 9 after passing through many cities and towns throughout the country. 

Thousands of paper doves have been dropped into the stadium in a symbol of freedom.

The Olympic flag is raised on the pole next to that flying the colours of Japan.

After over three hours, the Olympic flag gets passed around. The final part of the ceremony is the lighting of the flame.

The Olympic flag was designed in 1914 and first flown in Antwerp, Belgium. 

And now for the entrance of the Olympic flag. 

The five rings represent the five continents of the world. 

Thomas Bach, head of the IOC, is still speaking:

"Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment because finally we are all here together: the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, living under one roof together in the Olympic Village. This is the unifying power of sport. This is the message of solidarity, the message of peace and the message of resilience. This gives all of us hope for our further journey together."

IOC chief Thomas Bach is now speaking. He expresses his deepest gratitude to all athletes. 

Bach thanks the unsung heroes, doctors, nurses and all the Japanese people who worked during the pandemic.


French President Emmanuel Macron attends the Olympics opening ceremony. 

(Photo: Reuters)

The President of the Tokyo organising committee is now speaking on stage. She expresses her gratitude to the health workers around the world, thanks the people of Japan and welcomes everyone to the Games. 

John Legend and Keith Urban sign along to Imagine.

In the stadium, a children's choir is singing John Lennon's Imagine. It's all getting very emotional now. 

The Tokyo 2020 chequered emblem is revealed. Mirroring the logo above the Olympic stadium is 1,800 drones flying over the Tokyo night sky. 

This is a pretty cool aerial show if I'm being totally honest.

Athletes, judges and coaches now take the Olympc oath.

The athletes' entrance ends with Faster Higher Stronger Together, the new Olympic motto.

The fireworks go off in Tokyo!

Team Japan were the final team to make an entrance.

The USA are next to enter the stadium. France come in swiftly after the US. French President Emmanuel Macron is here in Tokyo for the opening ceremony. France will host the 2024 Olympic Games. 

Japan make their way in next. They've targeted 30 gold medals this summer. They've brought baseball and softball back too. 

Luxembourg are here! 

12 athletes have travelled from the European country. 

Luxembourg are followed by Rwanda. They're looking for their first ever Olympic medal.

Portugal have really given Argentina a run for their money with their entry. 

Halfway there!

Polish nightmare

Poland are down six swimmers. Their team bosses had to send them home earlier in the week because they had picked too many by mistake!

Benin are in with a shout of winning the best-dressed competition with a blue and pink floral outfit that has really impressed.

Belize, a really beautiful country on the Caribbean sea, enter the arena. They have just three athletes competing here. 

Brazil, Bulgaria and Burkina Faso are come out one after another. Some nice hats on display too!

Fiji and the Philippines make their way out onto the field. There are just 950 in attendance at the Tokyo stadium but it feels like much more. 

Finland, who themselves would argue that they are a better Winter Games team, have turned up. Good to have them!

Vanuatu enter the Olympic Stadium. Their flag is carried by the second bare-chested flag bearer of the night. He too is oiled up, just like Tonga's representative. 

Niger are out! A very small team for Niger. They first competed in 1964, like many African countries at the Games. 

Tonga have brought the coconut oil! 

Their flag bearer is here for taekwondo and carries the Tonga flag topless, covered in oil. Something different for the parade!

We have just been told that we have seen 120 teams already. With a 206 total, there's probably another hour to go!


Fireworks in Tokyo.

(Photo: Reuters)

Another casual showing, this time from Togo. It's yellow pants and white t-shirts. It's casual but it catches the eye.

Sailing is Denmark's most successful sport. They have eight sailors here. Most of them looking really happy to be here, under their masks. 

Germany's team is comprised of 425 athletes!

Argentina came out dancing a while back. Their neighbours Chile have come in very relaxed. The Chilean women's football team are at their first ever Games. A big welcome to them!

South Korea are out in their numbers. Not a fan of those white trousers and greyish/green jackets though. They do have some great athletes at this summer's games however, including Inbee Park.

The Solomon Islands make an appearance, wearing very cool green shirts!

Sweden unsurprisingly come in yellow. Spain are in. Tokyo was chosen ahead of Madrid in 2013. Spain have the top ranked male and female in Karate, a new sport in the Olympics. Golfer Jon Rahm is among their athletes.   

Georgia enter the arena and their female flag bearer has been part of nine Olympic Games. A phenomenal achievement really. 

A 12-year-old is here, Hend Zaza. She qualified when she was 11. Imagine...


The Italian team. 

(Photo: Reuters)

It's Ivory Coast or Côte d'Ivoire, but not Ireland! Those flags have confused many down through the years!

Costa Rice are in the house. It's a family affair for them in Tokyo. Five of the 12 athletes are trained by their parents. 

Croatia come out next. They always punch above their weight for a country of just 4 million people. They will be hoping to win some gold this summer.

Guam - with a population of 162,000 - are at this year's games. 

Kuwait bring a 10-strong team. They were actually banned from participating at Rio 2016 due to government interference but they are here this time around.

Wow! The Cameroon outfit is outstanding. Their first gold medal came in Sydney in 2000. Gambia follow them in white looking lab overalls. 

Kazakhstan - the biggest landlocked country in the world - come out next. It's navy suits for the Kazak crew. Quite a smart showing.

The Netherlands have a strong team in and are predicted to win 45 medals at this year's event. 

Australia come out now. Random fact of the day: The Australian national anthem has changed since Rio 2016. 

Mohamed Salah is not here but Egypt are. 

They had a goalless draw with Spain the other night. 

Great Britain's men and women come out next. Sailor Hannah Mills and rower Mohamed Sbihi lead out the British delegation. 

It's an unusually small team from GB and Northern Ireland. I'm not hugely impressed by their gear either. Beige trousers with navy/red jackets. Quite formal in comparison to other nations. 

Uganda come out next. They have brought a very small team to Tokyo. Ukraine are also out. They have a pretty good boxing record at the Games. It's a smart/casual dress approach for them.

Little Andorra have sent two athletes to the games. Italy have come in their numbers with a funky uniform, mostly white with a hint of red and green. They will be hoping to do the nation proud and add to their recent Euro 2020 success.

Many of the athletes are recording the ceremony on their phones as they come into the stadium. We're still on the A's. It's Armenia next!

Irish boxers Kellie Harrington and Brendan Irvine wave the tricolour proudly. All athletes are understandably wearing masks. Argentina have come in dancing, definitely the best entry so far. A cracking flag too may I add!

The athletes have entered the stadium to the theme tune from the Dragon Quest series of videogames, which quickly turns into the Final Fantasy victory music.

There will be two flag bearers for most of the nations. Ireland have followed Iceland in waving their flags. 

Here comes Greece!

776 BC is when it all started and the Greeks continue their opening ceremony tradition. 

Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Muhammad Yunus is honoured with the Olympic Laurel for his work with the IOC. He's not present in the stadium but sends his thanks in a pre-recorded speech.

This has been a pretty downbeat event so far. Death and isolation have been the main theme.

When there is a lull in the music, the noise from the demonstrators against the Games outside the stadium becomes audible.


The famous five rings arrive

(Photo: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

A journey through time

Each Opening Ceremony has a theme selected by the host country. During the "Parade of Nations", the host country's goal is to represent their cultural identity and to show the world their place in society.

Ceremonies have been around since The greek Ancient Games, from ca. 776 BC to ca. 393 AD. But it wasn’t until approximately the 77th Olympiad that they established a standard 18-event program and an Inauguration festival to celebrate the start of the Games. This festival was followed by a ceremony where athletes took an oath to sportsmanship, to end with an artistic competition of trumpeters and heralds.

The five timber rings are on centre stage. Fireworks are now changing into the colour of the five rings.


Traditional rhythm, banging and tapping

(Photo: Phil Noble/Reuters)

The tap dancing is over. The wooden theme remains though. There are now giant wooden rings on a platform made from trees planted by former Olympians. 

Rhythm of tradition

We now move onto the rhythm of tradition. These singers are traditional carpenters. There are nine different tables currently on show in the arena. These craftsmen have been hugely important to Japanese culture and life. 


Remembering those that were lost to covid-19.

(Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty)


The Japan flag is carried in

(Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP)

It is now time to pay tribute to all those who have lost their lives over the past year and the terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Games in Munich.

It is now time for the Japan national anthem.

Big Australian presence

Australia has assembled its largest team for an Olympic Games on foreign soil, with 487 athletes to compete across 33 sports.

An extra 16 athletes were brought in last week to bolster Australia's ranks as the nation looks to turn around a disappointing tally in Rio 2016, with the final team eclipsing the 482-total at Athens 2004. The likes of Ash Barty and the Kookaburras lead the nation's charge for gold, but there's a host of other names also hoping to deliver.

Local ESPN have compiled a list of Australians you need to know and watch this Olympic Games.

There would have been 68,000 spectators inside the stadium tonight. Members of Japan's self defence forces have now taken hold of the flag. 

The national flag of Japan enters. Japan expresses its gratitude to health workers around the world. The flag bearers are athletes and health workers. A Sydney 2000 Japanese marathon winner is among the flag bearers. 

There was a brief applause after the dance performance from the small crowd of 950. 


An overview shows a large screen with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games and a message reading 'No photography' before the start of the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo.

(Photo by Antonin Thuillier / AFP)

Now we have a group of dancers to convey a wave of emotions. 

The 'light within athletes' section has started

Several people, nurses among them are running alone, to represent the training regime for millions over the past 16 months since covid-19 changed the world.

The fireworks have started at the Olympic stadium in Tokyo.

Tokyo hosts

Tokyo won the bid to host the Olympics in 2013. It has been described as the "best equipped" city for the games.

How much do Olympic medals cost?

Olympic Games

How much do Olympic medals cost?

As of today, the market price for an ounce of gold is $1,892.00. In total, 812 gold medals are awarded to the winners of all the events at the Olympic Games. To produce one 500g medal made of solid gold would cost about $30,000 - times that by 812 and the total cost for all of the gold medals given out at one Games would be over $24,500,000.

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We have had to wait five years for this and now we are just seconds away from this year's opening ceremony.


Olympic Stadium, Tokyo before tonight's opening ceremony.

Photo: Reuters

The temperature in Tokyo is currently 28 degrees celsius or 82.4 fahrenheit. 

This ceremony is going to be very different from what we're used to seeing. Reports suggest that there will be only approximately 950 people in attendance.

The Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony is not far away!

Cardboard beds are not an ‘anti-intimacy’ ploy

One of the most talked about features of the Tokyo Bay Olympics village has been the unique beds that are fitted in each bedroom. Manufactured by Japanese company Airweave, the recyclable bed frames are made almost entirely out of renewable materials, such as cardboard.

Paul Chelimo, an American distance runner, claimed on Twitter that the beds were only able to support a single person and so were “aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes”. Others on social media soon picked up on the unusual bedding and christened the recycled structures “anti-sex beds", including Irish athlete Rhys Mcclenaghan.

The Olympic Village at Tokyo 2020: Restrictions, PCRs, cardboard beds...


The Olympic Village at Tokyo 2020: Restrictions, PCRs, cardboard beds...

After a one-year delay the 2020 Olympics will be going ahead in Tokyo, Japan but the global festival of sport will be unlike any in the competition’s illustrious history.

The games will begin on 23 July with nations from around the world coming together in Tokyo Bay, but with the host nation’s covid-19 case numbers spiralling local authorities have instituted a number of changes to ensure that athletes, officials and spectators are kept safe throughout.

Read more from Will Gittins

The stage is set!

French president attends opening ceremony

French President Emmanuel Macron has landed in Tokyo to attend the opening ceremony. Paris will host the next edition of the summer Games in 2024.

The French president is one of just a handful of foreign dignitaries who has flown in for the opening ceremony, after organisers put a limit on the attendance.

32nd edition of Games

The 32nd edition of the summer games formally opens in the national stadium of Japan which has a 68,000 capacity.

There will be, however, fewer than 1,000 spectators attending. Those in attendance will be Olympic officials, invited guests and some reporters.

Today is the day!

Opening ceremony at Tokyo Olympics 2021: performing artists, times, TV, stream and how to watch


Opening ceremony at Tokyo Olympics 2021: performing artists, times, TV, stream and how to watch

The curtain comes up on Tokyo 2020 with the delayed Games taking place a year after the originally scheduled date due to the global covid-19 pandemic.

Controversy has never been far away from the surface with the ongoing pandemic situation leading many Japanese citizens to openly oppose the staging of the Games. Growing positive covid cases involving participating athletes has done little to curry public opinion.

Another scandal emerged overshadowing the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony after it was revealed that the director of the ceremony of Tokyo Olympics has been dismissed, organizers said on Thursday, following news reports about his past comments on the Holocaust. Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto told a briefing that Kentaro Kobayashi had been dismissed because of past comments that made fun of a tragedy.

Organizers will be avidly hoping that once the sporting activity commences, public focus turns to the athletes participating and other issues get pushed to one side.

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What is the Olympic diploma and who gets it?


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Whilst it is common knowledge that the first, second and third-place finishers in events at the Olympic Games are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals, respectively, the Olympic diploma is an altogether lesser-known prize. The top eight athletes in each competition are handed one of these, but what is it?

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Who are the US flag bearers?

The US team will be the third-to-last parade to enter the stadium, two spots before Japan. This positioning reminds spectators that US will be hosting 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. France, which will be host nation for the Olympic Games in 2024 will enter behind the US, a spot ahead of Japan.

American flag bearers will be women representative Sue Bird (women’s basketball) and Men’s representative Eddy Alvarez (baseball, though he won a silver medal in short-track speedskating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics).

Bird and Alvarez will be wearing Ralph Lauren outfits which include a self-regulating cooling system designed by the brand.

Opening Ceremony: Safety Restrictions

A year after having been canceled because of the global pandemic, Olympic Games return, but still with strict restrictions due to increasing cases in the host country. No fans will be allowed at the Olympic events nor at the opening and closing ceremonies this year, an aspect that will drastically change the atmosphere of all the events not only for competitors but also for those who watch it from their homes.

Sponsors first officials which are usually seen in the Olympic’s opening will not be attending this year’s ceremony either. The companies cited the no-attendance policy at most of the Games’ venues and the need to prevent their executives from contracting the novel coronavirus. Even Japan’s three major business groups have also decided to skip the Opening Ceremony.

Officials revealed that just 950 people were expected to attend. Among whom will be officials, journalists, performers and athletes taking part of the Olympic Games.

Even if athletes are not obligated to take the vaccine, IOC has tried to persuade all countries to get their athletes vaccinated in solidarity with the host country. Around 80% of attendants have already been vaccinated.

Tokyo Olympics 2021 opening ceremony: order and flag bearers by country


Tokyo Olympics 2021 opening ceremony: order and flag bearers by country

The Tokyo Olympics will officially start Friday, July 23 with the traditional Opening Ceremony a year after having been canceled due to the global pandemic. While the International Olympic Committee establishes a very strict format for these sports events, the empty stadium, as well as the implementation of two representatives per nation will differentiate this year’s proceedings in Tokyo.

The Opening Ceremony, which is meant to last four hours, will be held at 7:00 a.m. ET. Friday, July 23. The event will take place at the new National Stadium in Tokyo, which opened last year and will also be hosting several sports such as soccer and the track and field competition.

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How can I watch the Olympics?

NBC will be broadcasting the Olympics in the US. You can also watch the games on the streaming service Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and NBC Sports.

Tokyo Olympics 2021: competition schedule: dates, times, events, sports


Tokyo Olympics 2021: competition schedule: dates, times, events, sports

The Tokyo Olympics gets underway with the opening ceremony on 23 July at 7.30am ET. The closing ceremony will take place on 8 August.

Full details

Tokyo Olympics 2020: hello and welcome

Hello and welcome to AS English's live coverage of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Japan.