Olympics Opening Ceremony 2021: Date, Start Time for Live BroadcastJuly 19, 2021
The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics is set to take place Friday at Japan National Stadium in Tokyo, and much like the competitions themselves, the pageantry will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There will be no fans in attendance at the Games because of pandemic restrictions. According to the Asahi Shimbun, there will be some spectators at the opening ceremony in the form of International Olympic Committee members and other special guests, but it remains to be seen exactly how many will be allowed to attend.
Some athletes may also be hesitant to take part in the ceremony. As of Sunday, the New York Times reported more than two dozen people who traveled to Japan for the Olympics have tested positive for COVID-19, including two athletes and an organizer who were inside the Olympic Village, and are now in isolation.
Despite the challenges, the opening ceremony will signal to fans around the world that it's time to start checking their schedules for their favorite events. Fans in the United States will have to get up bright and early if they want to watch the festivities live.
Opening Ceremony TV and Live-Stream Info
Date: Friday, July 23
Live Broadcast Time: 7 a.m. ET
Prime-Time Rebroadcast: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV channel: NBC
Live stream: NBCOlympics.com, Peacock
The theme of this year's opening ceremony is "United by Emotion." In a press release explaining the concept, organizers acknowledged the pandemic while saying sport is "an invaluable treasure that we believe has the power to unite the world through emotion—even if we are apart, speak different languages, or come from different cultures."
Other than the theme, few details have been released about the four-hour ceremony. Blue Impulse, the Japanese air force's aerobatics team, will take to the skies Friday and draw rings over Tokyo, per Reuters' Kiyoshi Takenaka. There will of course be the parade of nations, the lighting of the Olympic torch and other performances, but details remain sparse.
NBC's Savannah Guthrie, who will host the live broadcast, told reporters that "she's been sworn to secrecy," but she said viewers can expect "a really big, beautiful, patriotic show."
One change to look for this year is in the parade of nations. Before the Tokyo Games were postponed last year, the International Olympic Committee announced that countries could appoint both a male and female flag-bearer. Previously, IOC rules stated only one athlete from each country could carry the flag, which is considered an incredible honor and is often given to the nation's top competitor (in 2016, the legendary Michael Phelps was the flag-bearer for the U.S. at the opening ceremony).
If Friday is too long to wait to get your Olympic fix, a couple of sports will be starting early. The first matches for softball and women's soccer are Wednesday, while the men's soccer tournament gets going Thursday. Two sports, rowing and archery, will have their first events on opening day.
After that, the floodgates open, as thousands of athletes from more than 200 countries will look to bring home the gold. Newcomer sports this year include climbing, surfing, skateboarding and karate. Baseball and softball are back on the docket for the first time since the 2008 Summer Olympics.