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Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: Start time, how to watch and stream

Americans will have to wait a bit longer for Team USA to march in the Parade of Nations this year.

Blue Impulse of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force flies over the main National Stadium in Tokyo, which will host the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics on Friday.
Blue Impulse of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force flies over the main National Stadium in Tokyo, which will host the opening ceremony for the Summer Olympics on Friday.Read moreEugene Hoshiko / AP

Despite a state of emergency due to a spike in COVID-19 cases, Tokyo will officially usher in the Summer Olympics with the opening ceremony Friday at a mostly empty National Stadium.

Due to Tokyo’s emergency order, fans — including family members of athletes — won’t be allowed to attend the ceremony. A small number of Olympics officials and dignitaries, including first lady Jill Biden, will be in attendance.

The event will go on without opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi, who was fired Thursday over a Holocaust joke made on a comedy show in 1998.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch or stream the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony:

What time does the opening ceremony start?

The opening ceremony will begin at 8 p.m. local time in Japan in an empty National Stadium in Tokyo, which opened last year and will host both track and field and soccer events. The East Coast is 13 hours behind Tokyo, so that works out to 7 a.m. Eastern.

Can I watch the opening ceremony live on television?

Yes, for the first time since the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, the four-hour opening ceremony will air live on NBC beginning at 6:55 a.m. Friday, hosted live by Today show co-host Savannah Guthrie and NBC’s primetime Olympics host Mike Tirico. The broadcast will be followed by a special edition of the Today show at 11 a.m.

The network will then re-air an edited version of the ceremony with commentary at 7:30 p.m., where the focus will be on Team USA. That will include special features narrated by Philadelphia native Leslie Odom Jr. and actress Uma Thurman.

Where can I stream the opening ceremony?

Viewers can stream the opening ceremony on the NBC Sports app and at Access is free with authentication through participating pay-TV providers.

How long is the opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony is scheduled to take four hours. It will begin with the ceremonial entrance and opening of the games by Japanese Emperor Naruhito, though no other members of the imperial family will be in attendance due to COVID-19 outbreak in the country.

Other ceremonial moments will include the parade of athletes, the lighting of the Olympic torch, and the release of doves (which has been symbolic since 1988, when doves landed on the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the Seoul Olympics and were burned alive when it was lit).

The opening ceremony will also include the presentation of the Olympic Laurel, which honors “an outstanding individual for their achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport.” This year, the award is going to Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

Much of the ceremony, including potential performances, remains a mystery.

“I’m told I’ve been sworn to secrecy,” Guthrie told USA Today. “We’re hoping that there will still be that energy and excitement, but of course it will be different, just like everything post-pandemic has changed. But they still plan to put on a really big, beautiful, patriotic show.”

What is the order of the Parade of Nations?

Greece, in recognition of its role staging the original Olympics from 776 BC through 393 AD and the first modern Games in 1896, will once again lead all nations during the opening ceremony.

This year, Greece will be followed by the Refugee Olympic Team, which includes 29 athletes who were displaced after fleeing their home countries.

From there, the countries will enter alphabetically, determined using Japanese-language names. This year, future Olympic hosts will move to the end of the march, meaning the United States (which will host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles) will be third-to-last to enter National Stadium, followed by France (which will host the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris).

The two flag bearers for Team USA will be veteran women’s basketball player Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez. Bird is a four-time Olympic gold medalist participating in her fifth games, while Alvarez is among the few American athletes to compete in both the summer and winter Olympics — he won a silver medal in speed skating in Sochi in 2014.

As the host country, Japan will be the final nation to march into the ceremony.

Where are future Olympics being held?

  1. Winter Games 2022: Beijing, China

  2. Summer Games 2024: Paris, France

  3. Winter Games 2026: Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

  4. Summer Games 2028: Los Angeles, California

  5. Winter Games 2030: Expected to be chosen in 2023

  6. Summer Games 2032: Brisbane, Australia