Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: 5 things to know

TOKYO — The Summer Olympics opening ceremony, delayed for a year amid the coronavirus pandemic, is finally here.

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Here’s what you need to know about Friday’s event in Tokyo:

1. When and where will the opening ceremony take place?

The ceremony is set to begin at 8 p.m. Tokyo time – or 7 a.m. EDT – Friday at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Takayuki Hioki, executive producer of ceremonies for the Games, said the motto for this year’s Olympics is “united by emotion,” according to CNN.

“We spent a lot of time and energy struggling and what we came up with was ‘achieving personal best,’ ‘unity in diversity,’ ‘connecting to tomorrow’ – in other words, the Games’ vision,” Hioki said, adding that he believes the ceremony will have “a strong message that will resonate with the audience.”

The Games will officially end with the closing ceremony on Aug. 8.

2. Who will be there?

Although the Olympic Stadium has 68,000 seats, attendance has been limited to just 1,000 dignitaries in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to Japan Today. High-profile guests include U.S. first lady Jill Biden, Japanese Emperor Naruhito and French President Emmanuel Macron, the newspaper reported.

3. Who are the U.S. flag bearers?

Team USA’s flag bearers are Sue Bird, a basketball player and four-time Olympic gold medalist, and Eddy Alvarez, a baseball player who won a silver medal in speedskating at the 2014 Winter Olympics, according to a news release.

“Alvarez and Bird were chosen by a vote of fellow Team USA athletes and are the first duo to share the honor of leading the delegation into the opening ceremony, which serves as the official start to the Games,” the release said. “Of the 613 athletes who were named to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team, more than 230 are set to walk in Friday’s opening ceremony.”

Last year, the International Olympic Committee changed its rules to permit a national team to name one male and one female flag bearer “in promotion of gender parity,” according to the release.

4. What impact has COVID-19 had on the ceremony and other events?

On July 8, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency in Tokyo through Aug. 22 amid a surge of coronavirus cases in the city. As a result, Olympic organizers decided to bar spectators – both local and foreign – from the 2021 Games.

“No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement at the time. “Under this policy, in areas where emergency measures are not in force, local government authorities will meet and decide specific measures in consultation with the local governors based on the situation in each area.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, about 5,000 or 6,000 athletes – including 260 Americans – are expected to participate in the parade of nations.

On Thursday, Tokyo logged 1,979 new COVID-19 cases, the city’s largest daily total since 2,044 on Jan. 15, The Associated Press reported. About 23% of Japan’s population is fully vaccinated, officials said.

As of July 1, at least 106 coronavirus infections have been linked to the Olympics, according to USA Today.

5. Controversies have already plagued this year’s ceremony.

COVID-19 isn’t the only issue throwing a wrench in Olympic organizers’ plans this year. On Thursday, the organizing committee fired the ceremony’s director, Kentaro Kobayashi, who is facing backlash for making a Holocaust joke during a 1998 comedy act, according to the AP. The news came just days after Keigo Oyamada, who had composed music for the ceremony, was forced to step down amid allegations of past bullying, the news agency reported.

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