Olympic Torch Lighting 2021: What to Watch for During Friday's Spectacle

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2021

National Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies, athletics and soccer for Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be held, is seen Saturday, July 10, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press

The Olympic torch typically takes a circuitous journey to its final destination at the Summer Games, but its route for the 2020 Summer Olympics was probably unlike any in history.

The coronavirus pandemic forced officials to delay the Games of the XXXII Olympiad by one year. Even with the pause, a number of adjustments were required to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as thousands of athletes descend upon Tokyo.

Friday's opening ceremony will signal the start of the two-week athletic spectacular.


Viewing Info

Date: Friday, July 23

Time: 6:55 a.m. ET (live); 7:30 p.m. ET (replay)

TV Info: NBC

Live Stream: NBC Sports app; NBCOlympics.com


What to Watch

The 2020 Summer Olympics will lack the grandeur fans have come to expect, and that will be immediately apparent during the opening ceremony.

Tokyo is experiencing significant COVID-19-related issues, which led officials from the organizing committee to ban spectators from all events. According to the Asahi Shimbun in Japan, there will be a select number of "special" guests allowed to attend the opening ceremony, with foreign dignitaries and the International Olympic Committee among those included.

The precautionary measures will also impact the number of athletes present.

Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said last week he expects around 51 members of the country's delegation to march. That would be roughly half the number of Australians who took part in the 2016 opening ceremony.

"Many of the 613-member U.S. contingent aren't expected to be in attendance at Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony," USA Today's Scooby Axson wrote.

Here's how the Americans will look Friday:

Ralph Lauren @RalphLauren

We’re honored to unveil the official @TeamUSA Opening Ceremony uniforms and continue to support our #RLxTeamUSA athletes We asked our athletes to describe what it feels like to step into the Stadium, as they prepare for the start of the Tokyo 2020 Games https://t.co/OxXILN3IIW https://t.co/MlI5a4m67U

The showcase will be affected in less perceptible ways as well.

Reuters' Ju-min Park and Sakura Murakami wrote three of the 2020 Summer Games' top sponsors—Panasonic, Fujitsu and NEC Corporation—are skipping the ceremony. Toyota has also pulled all of its Olympic-themed advertising from Japanese television because of concerns about staging the Olympics under the present circumstances.

Details of the ceremony are always kept under wraps to build intrigue right up until the last minute. Organizers are using the theme of "United by Emotion" for this year's festivities, which is a nod in part to the hardship people have experienced during the pandemic:

"In the Opening Ceremony, Tokyo 2020 hopes to reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games, to express gratitude and admiration for the efforts we all made together over the past year, and also to bring a sense of hope for the future.

"It's hoped the ceremony will be an experience that conveys how we all have the ability to celebrate our differences, to empathise, and to live side-by-side with compassion for one another."

As to the identity of the person who will officially light the Olympic cauldron, the answer remains unclear. Hideki Matsuyama, who won the 2021 Masters, expressed his desire to get the honor in April.


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