Olympic Opening Ceremonies 2021: Top Moments and Photos from Tokyo

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 23, 2021

Fireworks illuminate over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)
AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama

The 2021 Summer Olympics formally began Friday with the Opening Ceremony at Japan National Stadium in Tokyo after a yearlong delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Olympics @Olympics

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> is officially... open!

Organizing Committee CEO Toshiro Muto had left the door open for a possible last-minute cancelation of the Games, which are taking place amid a recent surge in coronavirus cases in Japan, but the ceremony moved forward as scheduled with the typical Parade of Nations featuring athletes from over 200 countries from around the world.


Performers kick off the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> in Tokyo. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/tkgTvZuTXh">pic.twitter.com/tkgTvZuTXh</a>

No fans were in attendance for Friday's event because of COVID-19 restrictions, which will also keep spectators from the sporting events set to take place over the next two weeks. Instead, it was limited to international dignitaries, including American First Lady Jill Biden.

AFP News Agency @AFP

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UPDATE?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#UPDATE</a> The ceremony in the 68,000-capacity stadium is taking place before just a few hundred officials and dignitaries, including Japan's Emperor Naruhito, French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden <a href="https://t.co/stHri0N8qA">pic.twitter.com/stHri0N8qA</a>

There were also protests outside the stadium during the ceremony after public polls held in Japan over the past few months showed strong support for canceling the Games of the 32nd Olympiad because of the uncertainty related to the pandemic.

Ann Killion @annkillion

Huge protest outside opening ceremonies. <a href="https://t.co/bGyn4dXbF2">pic.twitter.com/bGyn4dXbF2</a>

The Opening Ceremony was more modest than many of those in years past, and that was by design as organizers worked to match a unique moment in history.

"Everyone has different feelings about holding a Games in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic," organizers said.

Reuters @Reuters

<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a>: Royalty, tradition, fireworks and a moment of silence as the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> Games start <a href="https://t.co/7kMk5vJHzb">pic.twitter.com/7kMk5vJHzb</a>

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who was also among those in attendance, said Saturday he was "aware of the skepticism in Japan" but urged people to support the athletes.

"What will make the Games so historic is the demonstration that they can happen in a safe and secure way, even under the circumstances of this pandemic," Bach told reporters.


The athletes have arrived for the parade of nations. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> <a href="https://t.co/CfskPM9pHF">pic.twitter.com/CfskPM9pHF</a>

Meanwhile, Team USA selected basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez as the delegation's flag-bearers for the event. They led a large contingent of American athletes into the stadium near the end of the Parade of Nations, which wrapped up with the host country of Japan.

Alexa Philippou @alexaphilippou

Sue Bird &amp; Eddy Alvarez lead the U.S. delegation into the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony as flag bearers<br><br>Bird to NBC: "It's very difficult to explain. The energy is insane. I know our country is in a tough moment right not, but right now we all feel unified and it's incredible" <a href="https://t.co/7HjqgYkApR">pic.twitter.com/7HjqgYkApR</a>

The United States entered the Olympics as the favorites to finish with the most overall medals and the most gold medals at the Games. The U.S. dominated the medal table at the 2016 Rio Games finishing with 121 total medals, 51 more than its closest competition (China, 70).

USA Basketball @usabasketball

The <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> brings an energy that never grows old. <br><br>πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ <a href="https://twitter.com/TeamUSA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TeamUSA</a> x <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> <a href="https://t.co/VaDVIrFUDJ">pic.twitter.com/VaDVIrFUDJ</a>

Preliminary competition already started in Tokyo on Wednesday with softball and soccer, but the schedule kicks off in earnest Saturday with several marquee events on tap, including gymnastics and swimming. The first gold medals will also be handed out Saturday.

USA Swimming @USASwimming

Friday fits looking fresh πŸ”₯<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TokyoOlympics?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TokyoOlympics</a> <a href="https://t.co/Mc7OdZ1rlb">pic.twitter.com/Mc7OdZ1rlb</a>

In all, there are 339 events scheduled across 33 sports at this year's Olympics. From household names like Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic to relative unknowns preparing to steal the show, there's plenty of room in the spotlight over the next fortnight.

Olympics @Olympics

Rio 2016 βœ…<br>PyeongChang 2018 βœ…<br>Tokyo 2020βœ…<br><br>If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 😎 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> <a href="https://t.co/wEN8eg08YW">pic.twitter.com/wEN8eg08YW</a>

The motto for this year's Games is "United by Emotion," though the IOC amended the official Olympic motto to "Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together" in light of the pandemic.

Olympics @Olympics

A message to carry with us throughout <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Tokyo2020?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Tokyo2020</a> πŸ™Œ<br><br>The new Olympic motto: Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OpeningCeremony?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OpeningCeremony</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/StrongerTogether?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#StrongerTogether</a> <a href="https://t.co/BZuFqvqrUD">pic.twitter.com/BZuFqvqrUD</a>

The Closing Ceremony in Tokyo is scheduled for Aug. 8.