The Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony was full of memorable, heart-warming moments. After being delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympics began with an impressive show.
Organizers did not shy away from the gravity of this moment and acknowledge the hardship that Olympic athletes and the Japanese people have endured throughout the past year. But of course, the Parade of Nations brought a joy and excitement, consistent with Olympic Games of the past.
Here are the top 10 moments from the Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremony:
Opening sequence celebrates unity through sport
The Tokyo Olympics opened with a touching performance featuring athletes in training, the moment when Tokyo’s bid for the Olympics was announced and celebrations from the new year in 2020. The performance soon came to a halt and showed footage of the empty streets in Japan during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The athlete-performers eventually picked their training back up, and a performance with red ribbon ensued, signaling that athletes bring life to the Olympics.
One of the athlete-performers was a Japanese boxer and nurse, Arisa Tsubata, who was unable to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after the boxing qualifier was canceled.
Moment of reflection for COVID-19 victims
Following the opening performance, a moment of reflection took place to honor those who had died from COVID-19 in the past year. In a deeply personal moment, announcers called for a moment of silence, while the people who were in the stadium stood and observed.
Boxer Arisa Tsubata may not have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, but she still had her moment during the Opening Ceremony on Friday: The middleweight boxer is also a nurse who cared for COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, and was showcased during the ceremony’s opening sequence.
Munich massacre observed for the first time in Opening Ceremony history
Following the moment of silence in honor of COVID-19 victims, announcers recognized those who had died during the Olympics and specifically acknowledged the 11 Israeli delegation members who died during the Munich massacre in 1972.
Nearly 50 years since the Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed in the Olympic Village at the hands of the terrorist group, Black September, the Tokyo organizers made history as this was the first time the massacre was mentioned in an Opening Ceremony.
Japanese culture on full display during Opening Ceremony
As expected, there were incredible nods to Japanese history and culture during the Opening Ceremony performances. From traditional outfits, tributes to the Bon festival and a beautiful rendition of the Japanese national anthem by pop star MISIA, the worldwide audience got a taste of some of Japan’s most prized cultural elements.
Before the torch ceremony in Tokyo, a Kabuki actor appeared in elaborate costume. Ayako Kiyono and Masa Hattori from InsideJapan explain the role that the theatrical form plays in Japanese culture.
Recognizable music in Parade of Nations
The Parade of Nations featured some fun, recognizable music to video game fans. More than 5,700 athletes and administrative officials marched to music from classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Two flag bearers for every country
For the first time ever, two flag bearers represented each country as they marched into the Olympic stadium. The IOC ruled that each country should elect a male and female flag bearer to promote gender equity at the Games.
Shirtless Tongan returned as flag bearer
Taekwondo player Pita Taufatofu carried in the flag for Tonga alongside fellow taekwondo player Malia Paseka. This was his third Olympic appearance after carrying the flag in Rio and PyeongChang and rising to viral sensation in both opening ceremonies.
Team USA makes their entrance
Team USA marched in at the third to last spot in the Parade of Nations in honor of their responsibilies as host of the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Sue Bird and Eddy Alvarez proudly carried the American flag, representing over 600 Americans competing in this year’s Olympics. The Tokyo Olympics will feature the second largest Team USA in Olympic history.
Refugee team marches into Olympic stadium
For the second time in Olympic history, the IOC is supporting a refugee team at the Olympics. The team is made up of 29 athletes who have been displaced from their home countries.
Osaka lights torch to open Tokyo Olympics
Naomi Osaka was the final torch bearer and lit the Olympic cauldron to close out the Opening Ceremony. Osaka’s role in this year’s Olympics harkens back to the last time Japan hosted in 1998 when figure skater Midori Ito was the lone torch lighter. Japan became the first host nation to choose an individual woman as their torch lighter in a consecutive Olympics they host.
Naomi Osaka served as the final Olympic torchbearer for the Tokyo Olympic Games, lighting the Olympic flame during the Opening Ceremony.
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