Amid the coronavirus pandemic, little among the sports world has stayed normal. And it's the reason why the Olympics never took place in Tokyo last summer, instead getting postponed for a year to 2021.
Now, though, it's time for the Games to begin. In fact, some already have, with the softball and women's soccer events getting underway Wednesday. But things don't officially begin until the opening ceremony, which will take place at the Olympic Stadium on Friday.
Coverage of the ceremony will begin live at 6:55 a.m. ET on Friday on NBC. For those who can't watch then, it will be rebroadcast that night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
Things won't be completely normal at the showpiece, just as the rest of the Olympics will be impacted by COVID-19 protocols. There won't be fans in attendance, as the ceremony will be limited to some athletes and other invited guests, including First Lady Jill Biden.
The tone for this year's ceremony will also be slight different from the usual fanfare and festivities, according to Marco Balich, a senior advisor for the Tokyo ceremony.
"It will be a much more sobering ceremony. Nevertheless with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality," Balich said, per Karolos Grohmann of Reuters.
Team USA announced some big news on Wednesday, when it revealed which two athletes will be the flag bearers representing the nation at the opening ceremony. Each country will have one man and one woman serving in the roles.
The Olympics are featuring baseball for the first time since 2008, so it seems right that Team USA's male flagbearer will be Eddy Alvarez. The 31-year-old infielder, who plays in the Miami Marlins organization, will be the first American baseball player to have that honor.
"Being a first-generation Cuban American, my story represents the American Dream," Alvarez said in a statement. "My family has sacrificed so much for me to have the opportunity to wave this flag proudly."
Women's basketball player Sue Bird will also be a flag bearer for Team USA. The 40-year-old is a four-time gold medalist and will be looking to again lead Team USA to success. She will be the first women's basketball player to serve as a Team USA flag bearer since Dawn Staley in 2004.
"It's an honor that is bigger than the moment in that you've been selected by your fellow Team USA athletes to represent the entire delegation, and it will last forever," Bird said in a statement.
Rui Hachimura (men's basketball) and Yui Susaki (women's wrestling) will have the honor of carrying the flag for the host nation.