The Tokyo Olympics officially get underway Friday with the Opening Ceremonies, the once-every-two-years display of pomp, circumstance, parades, oath-taking, flame-lighting and various cultural oddities. While the International Olympic Committee sets a pretty strict format for these types of events, a few things will differentiate this year’s proceedings in Tokyo, most conspicuously that they will take place in an empty stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic and will begin three years after the previous Opening Ceremonies, at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

Here’s what you can expect as the Tokyo Games get rolling.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When are the Opening Ceremonies?
  • How can I watch the Opening Ceremonies on television?
  • How can I watch the Opening Ceremonies on a streaming service?
  • How long are the Opening Ceremonies?
  • Where are the Opening Ceremonies taking place?
  • Will fans be allowed at the Opening Ceremonies?

When are the Opening Ceremonies?

The Opening Ceremonies will take place at 7 a.m. Eastern time Friday, July 23. Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast.

How can I watch the Opening Ceremonies on television?

NBC will air the Opening Ceremonies live beginning at 6:55 a.m. Eastern on July 23. NBC also will air the Opening Ceremonies on tape delay in prime time starting at 7:30 p.m. Eastern, with a focus on Team USA, the parade of nations and the performances at the event.

How can I watch the Opening Ceremonies on a streaming service?

The Opening Ceremonies will be streamed on the NBC Sports app and at

How long are the Opening Ceremonies?

The event is scheduled to last four hours.

Where are the Opening Ceremonies taking place?

The Opening Ceremonies will take place at National Stadium, which opened last year and also will host the track and field competition and some soccer events.

Will fans be allowed at the Opening Ceremonies?

No. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, fans will not be allowed at most Olympic events this year. Officials revealed Thursday that just 950 stakeholders were expected to attend.

The Tokyo Olympics are happening as Japan is grappling with coronavirus, along with the rest of the world. But the year-late games are pressing on. (Lee Powell/The Washington Post)

What is included in the event?

The Opening Ceremonies’ contents are strictly laid out in the Olympic charter and annually include the entry of the host nation’s head of state and the playing of that country’s national anthem, the parade of athletes, the symbolic release of doves (real doves have not been released since an unfortunate incident at the 1988 Seoul Games involving the Olympic torch), the opening of the Games by the head of state (this year, it’s Japanese Emperor Naruhito), the taking of various oaths and an artistic program.

Who is performing at the Opening Ceremonies?

The exact list of performers has not been revealed.

“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,” said NBC personality Savannah Guthrie, who added that she has been “sworn to secrecy” about the performers involved.

Why was the director of the Opening Ceremonies fired?

On Thursday, the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee fired Kentaro Kobayashi, the director of the Opening Ceremonies, because of a Holocaust joke he made during a comedy show in 1998.

“We found out that Mr. Kobayashi, in his own performance, has used a phrase ridiculing a historical tragedy,” organizing committee president Seiko Hashimoto said. “We deeply apologize for causing such a development the day before the opening ceremony and for causing troubles and concerns to many involved parties as well as the people in Tokyo and the rest of the country.”

Earlier in the week, Japanese Olympic officials announced they were pulling a composition by composer Keigo Oyamada after 1990s interviews surfaced in which he admitted to bullying classmates. The composition by Oyamada, whose stage name is Cornelius, was to be used in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

How does the parade of nations work?

As is tradition, the Greek Olympic team will be the first to enter the stadium in the parade of nations, and host Japan will enter last. The order of countries will be based on the names of the nations in the Japanese language, going in alphabetical order.

This year, the Refugee Olympic Team — comprising refugees from several countries — will enter the stadium second, behind Greece.

When will the U.S. athletes enter?

The U.S. Olympic team will be the third-to-last group to enter the stadium, two spots ahead of Japan. This reflects the United States’ status as a future Olympic host (Los Angeles in 2028). France, host of the 2024 Games, will enter behind the United States, followed by Japan.

Who are the U.S. flag bearers?

Starting this year, the IOC is allowing each nation to have two flag bearers: one man and one woman. The U.S. flag bearers will be Sue Bird (women’s basketball) and Eddy Alvarez (baseball, though he won a silver medal in short-track speedskating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics).

Bird and Alvarez will be wearing a self-regulating cooling system that was designed by Ralph Lauren and is integrated into their Opening Ceremonies outfits. July temperatures in Tokyo regularly soar into the 90s.

Who are some notable international flag bearers?

Australia: Cate Campbell (women’s swimming) and Patty Mills (men’s basketball).

Brazil: Ketleyn Quadros (women’s judo) and Bruno Rezende (men’s volleyball).

Canada: Miranda Ayim (women’s basketball) and Nathan Hirayama (men’s rugby sevens).

India: Mary Kom (women’s boxing) and Mandeep Singh (men’s field hockey).

Ireland: Kellie Harrington (women’s boxing) and Brendan Irvine (men’s boxing)

Japan: Yui Susaki (women’s wrestling) and Rui Hachimura (men’s basketball).

New Zealand: Sarah Hirini (women’s rugby sevens) Hamish Bond (men’s rowing).

Romania: Madalina Beres (women’s rowing) and Robert Glinta (men’s swimming).

Russia: Sofya Velikaya (women’s fencing) and Maxim Mikhailov (men’s volleyball).

South Korea: Kim Yeon-Koung (women’s volleyball) and Hwang Sun-woo (men’s swimming)

Who will light the Olympic cauldron?

Like many other details of the Opening Ceremonies, the identity of the person to light the Olympic flame has yet to be revealed. The duty traditionally has been performed by a person from the host nation, either an athlete or someone who personifies the Olympic ideal.

There will be two Olympic cauldrons this year, one at National Stadium that will be lit only during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and one in Japan’s waterfront district that will be lit for the entirety of the Games.