Olympics Opening Ceremony 2021: Schedule, Performers and Flag Bearers

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 21, 2021

The Olympic Rings and a Tokyo 2020 sign are pictured inside Yokohama Baseball Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Wednesday, July 21, 2021, in Yokohama, Japan. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

The Summer Olympics are finally here after a one-year postponement of the event caused by the coronavirus pandemic. On Wednesday, women's soccer matches and softball games were taking place in Tokyo.

While the competition has begun, it may not feel like the Olympics have truly started yet. That's because the opening ceremony doesn't take place until Friday, when the participating nations will come together and officially get things started at the Olympic Stadium.

The opening ceremony will air live Friday at 6:55 a.m. ET on NBC. For those who are unable to watch, it will be rebroadcasted that night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

There's always a ton of pageantry at the opening ceremony, but there haven't been many details released about how things will go this year. It is known that there won't be fans in attendance, with only limited guests (including First Lady Jill Biden) expected to be there.

It's not going to be quite the same as past Olympics, according to Marco Balich, an opening ceremonies executive producer who is a senior advisor for the ceremony at the Tokyo Games.

"It will be a much more sobering ceremony," Balich told Reuters' Karolos Grohmann. "Nevertheless with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality."

Does that mean there won't be as many performers? That isn't yet clear. But there will still be plenty of athletes in attendance as the Olympic torch gets lit, signifying the start of the Games.

There will also be flag bearers representing the nations, although not every country has announced who those athletes will be. That includes Team USA, which will have plenty of tremendous competitors to choose from. This will be the first time in Olympic history that one man and one woman from each country will both participate in the ceremony.

Japan has announced that Rui Hachimura (men's basketball) and Yui Susaki (women's wrestling) will be the flag bearers for the host nation.

"The Tokyo Olympics is the stage I've always dreamed of," Hachimura said, per the Olympics' official website. "I am very honored to have such a big role."

On Tuesday, Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, announced that Nathan Hirayama (men's rugby) and Miranda Ayim (women's basketball) will be the flag bearers for the country. Ayim is no stranger to the Olympics, as this will mark her third time competing for Team Canada.

Another notable flag bearer for Friday's ceremony is Patty Mills, a men's basketball player who will be representing Australia. He's the first Indigenous Australian who will serve in the role at the Olympics.

"As a proud Kokatha, Naghiralgal and Dauareb-Meriam man it's incredible," Mills said, per the Associated Press. "A very passionate moment I can feel in my bones. As the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flag bearer, my connection between our country—the land, the sky, the sea, our culture, our history and this particular moment runs extremely deep." 

Mills will be joined by Cate Campbell (women's swimming) in representing Australia at Friday's ceremony.

With this modified opening ceremony and no fans attending the events, the Olympics will have a different feel this year. However, after not being able to head to Tokyo last year, the athletes should provide the high levels of excitement and competition that we've come to expect from the Games throughout the years.