When and How to Watch the Opening Ceremony of This Summer’s Tokyo Olympics


PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 09:  Fireworks erupt as the Olympic Cauldron is lit during the Opening Ceremony of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on February 9, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea.  (Photo by Pool - David J. Phillip/Getty Images)

The opening ceremonies of the Olympics are always a chance for the host country to put on a spectacular show, making them one of the most anticipated moments of the Summer Games. Although the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo will be unlike any Games before them, all eyes will undoubtedly be on Japan’s Olympic Stadium when the opening ceremony kicks off on Friday, July 23, from 8 to 11:30 p.m. local time — exactly one year after the Olympics were postponed.

The opening ceremony will go on even as Tokyo is once again under a state of emergency amid rising COVID-19 cases. Spectators have been banned from events taking place in Japan’s capital city, though CNN reported that, for the time being, stakeholders such as International Olympic Committee (IOC) and National Olympic Committee (NOC) members are expected to have access to the venues. The organizers will review that decision for the opening ceremony, specifically.

It’s unclear how many athletes will be allowed to attend the festivities. The number was already expected to be much lower than in previous years. Organizers were planning for an estimated 6,000 athletes to attend the opening ceremony due to COVID-19 restrictions that will limit their stay in the Olympic Village. That’s down from a previous estimate of 11,000.

Fortunately, viewers will still have options to watch the opening ceremony. Notably, Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast of the United States, which means most fans in North and South America will be getting ready for work or not even awake when the festivities begin. While the NBC Olympics site doesn’t yet have a broadcast schedule listed, coverage will be similar to past years, with many events being available for live-streaming, others being broadcast on sister channels like NBC Sports, and marquee events being covered on NBC during primetime, whether live or tape-delayed. In the case of the opening ceremony, the network has said that it will broadcast the ceremony live starting at 6:55 a.m. ET on July 23, then replay it during primetime, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Further details about the opening ceremony have not been released. According to the “basic policy” of the organizers, the opening ceremony will focus on a few specific themes, which include:

  • Peace: Show that commitment to harmony leads to a world which transcends division and conflict.
  • Coexistence: Aspire to a coexistent society which creates new values through the recognition, support, and leverage of diversity.
  • Reconstruction: Give courage to the world by overcoming natural disasters and persevering to create the next generation.
  • Future: Create a starting line for a new, more sustainable, more richly human era.

—Additional reporting by Karen Snyder Duke

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