Tokyo 2020 LIVE: The Olympic Games Are Officially Open, As Naomi Osaka Lights Olympic Torch

Live Updates

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have officially kicked off following an opening ceremony that emphasized solidarity and perseverance.

The event was held mostly without spectators to prevent the spread of infections, although 1,000 VIPs were allowed to attend.

Before the torch was lit, protestors gathered outside the Olympic stadium to demand the Games be canceled amid rising coronavirus cases in Japan.

The ceremony will replay in primetime at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Follow the Newsweek live blog for the latest Tokyo 2020 news.


Olympic Opening Ceremony
Fireworks light up the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Jill Biden writes letter of encouragement to Team USA athletes

First lady Jill Biden wrote an open letter to the Team USA Olympic athletes.

"Becoming an Olympian is a rare accomplishment in a normal time, but you did it during a global pandemic," she wrote. "You are forever one of the most elite, most celebrated and most accomplished athletes in the world."

She assured the athletes that the "entire nation is cheering you on" and noted the unifying nature of the Olympic Games.

"In these moments, we are more than our cities or states or backgrounds," Biden wrote. "We are more than our jobs or our political parties. We are united. We are all, first and foremost, Team USA."

Dear @TeamUSA, your entire nation is cheering you on and we are grateful for what you’ve given us: the chance to come together in common awe and appreciation for your accomplishments and the shared joy of rooting for our country on the edge of our seats.

— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) July 23, 2021

The first lady will attend the U.S. women's basketball games against France, the U.S. swimming races and the U.S. women's soccer game against New Zealand tomorrow.

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic torch

The Olympic torch has been lit.

Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka had the honor of lighting the cauldron.

Naomi Osaka Torch
Naomi Osaka of Team Japan lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Human Olympic pictograms recreated at opening ceremony

Following the official opening of the Games, there was a live human recreation of Olympic pictograms.

We're obsessed with these human pictograms! 😂

Which sport was your favourite? #Tokyo2020 #OpeningCeremony

— Olympics (@Olympics) July 23, 2021

When Japan hosted the Olympic Games in 1964, organizers had to find a way to overcome the language gap. Their solution: pictograms depicting each sport. The Games have used these pictograms ever since.

These are the first ever kinetic pictograms in Games history, they were created to highlight how dynamic, innovative, and special #Tokyo2020 will be! ✨

Let us know your favourite @Olympics sport! 👇#UnitedByEmotion | #StrongerTogether

— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 19, 2021

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are officially open

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games are now officially open.

#Tokyo2020 is officially... open!

— Olympics (@Olympics) July 23, 2021

Japan's Emperor Naruhito made the declaration and then the Olympic flag was raised next to the Japanese flag.

As the flag was raised, dove-shaped projections and paper doves float around the stadium at the opening ceremony.

Olympic Flag
The Olympic flag is raised alongside the Japanese flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

IOC President Thomas Bach emphasizes solidarity at the Olympic Games

International Olympics Committee President Thomas Bach praised the "perseverance" of Japanese people and of the Olympics athletes during the coronavirus pandemic and emphasized the importance of solidarity.

"We need more solidarity among societies and we need more solidarity within societies," Bach said.

"Solidarity means much more than just respect or nondiscrimination," he added. "Solidarity means helping, sharing, caring."

Bach added that standing in solidarity "makes the world a better place through sports."

While the pandemic had "forced us to keep apart," Bach said that today, the Games have brought the world together.

"This Olympics experience makes all of us very humble," he said, "because we feel that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. We are part of an event that unites the world."

Drones create a globe as "Imagine" plays at Olympics opening ceremony

Over 1800 drones create an illuminated globe over the Tokyo Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony, as performers from around the world sing John Lennon's "Imagine."

The rendition of "Imagine" included musical artists such as John Legend and Keith Urban.

Drones Olympics
A drone display is seen over the top of the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Leon Neal/Getty Images

Team Japan closes out the parade of athletes

Team Japan closes out the parade of athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

Team Japan
Flag bearers Yui Susaki and Rui Hachimura of Team Japan lead their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Team USA arrives at the Olympic opening ceremony

Team USA has arrived at the Olympic opening ceremony, as first lady Jill Biden cheers them on.

🇺🇸 @TeamUSA are here!

Four-time Olympic basketball champion Sue Bird and baseball star and Winter Olympic medallist Eddy Alvarez carry the flag.#StrongerTogether #OpeningCeremony #USA

— Olympics (@Olympics) July 23, 2021

The WNBA's Sue Bird and Miami Marlins baseball player Eddy Alvarez lead the team as they march out in their Ralph Lauren Olympic uniforms.

The 613-member team is the Unites State's second-largest Olympic delegation.

team usa
Flag bearers Sue Bird and Eddy Alvares of Team United States lead their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Portuguese Olympic surfer Frederico Morais tests positive for COVID-19

Portuguese surfer Frederico Morais is the latest Olympic athlete to test positive for COVID-19.

He will miss his Olympic debut in Japan.

"This is likely the saddest video I've ever had to post," Morias said in an Instagram video. "In 2019 I qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that were postponed because of COVID-19. And now, because of the virus I won't be able to compete nor represent my country."

Morias said he was fully vaccinated for over a month and was "very careful" despite contracting the virus.

"I feel fine and I will carry out my isolation," he said. "I will be following every second of our team."

Morias is considered the best surfer in Europe and said he is looking forward to competing in the 2024 Paris Games.

Shirtless Tonga flag bearer returns to Tokyo

The internet's favorite Olympic flag bearer is back in Tokyo.

Pita Taufatofua became an online sensation during the 2016 Rio Games, and again at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, when he walked out shirtless and in a traditional Togan costume at the opening ceremonies.

I suddenly want to move to Tonga #OpeningCeremony

— Mona (@Mona_TZK) July 23, 2021

Taufatofua will represent Tonga in taekwondo. He is also an engineer who lives in Australia and serves as an ambassador for UNICEF.

Tonga Flag
Flag bearers Malia Paseka and Pita Taufatofua of Team Tonga lead their team out during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on July 23, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Jamie Squire/Getty Images

U.S. women's soccer team will not attend opening ceremony

Alex Morgan shares that the U.S. women's soccer team will not march into the opening ceremony with the rest of Team USA.

"We will be parading around the hotel in our opening ceremony outfits," she tweeted.

So excited for 2020 Olympics #openingceremony tonight! We won't be there in person but we WILL be parading around the hotel in our opening ceremony outfits while prepping for game 2 tomorrow!

— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) July 23, 2021

The U.S. women's team is preparing for their next game tomorrow. They will look to beat New Zealand after a disappointing loss to Sweeden Wednesday.

Excited Team USA make their way to the opening ceremony

WE OFF THE BUS! WE COMING SOON! 🇺🇸 #OpeningCeremony

— Team USA (@TeamUSA) July 23, 2021

Music from Japanese video games used in opening ceremony parade

An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games is serving as the soundtrack for the parade of countries at the opening ceremony. The arrangement included songs from games developed by SEGA, Capcom and Square Enix.

Video game themes are often maligned but in Japan, the music that accompanies games is considered an art form. Video game composers are famous in Japan, and NieR, one of the series featured in the parade, has seen three of its soundtracks appear on Japanese music charts.

Sue Bird to share U.S. flag with Eddy Alvarez

Basketball champion Sue Bird is one of the flagbearers for the U.S. in the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics, sharing the role with baseball's Eddy Alvarez. Bird says "this Olympics are like no other" due to the lack of spectators.

Stick with Newsweek's blog to see Team USA parade at the opening ceremony.

Parade begins led by Greek and Refugee teams

Greece enters first as per tradition, with the Refugee Olympic team going second as the parade of 206 nations begins.

Team Greece lead Olympic opening ceremony parade
Flag bearers Anna Korakaki and Eleftherios Petrounias of Team Greece lead their team in during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Japanese flag raised, followed by moment of silence

Flagbearers including injured former athletes, youth champions and emergency services staff carry the Japanese flag across the stadium floor.

The flag passes to members of Japan's defense forces, who carry it to the flagpole, which is raised to the sound of the country's national anthem, where it will stay until the closing ceremony at the end of the Games.

The stadium goes dark, with the announcer asking people to stand and pause for a moment of silence to remember those who have lost their lives since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Japanese flag carried during Olympics opening ceremony
Japanese flag carried during Olympics opening ceremony
Japanese flag raised during Olympics opening ceremony
Olympics official hold moment of silence

Stadium floor lights up in stunning display

A rainbow of flashing lights brushes across the stadium floor, moving in time with a team of dancers.

The routine, organizers say, represents the struggles athletes have been through to get to this point - in the past year, in particular.

Dancers then took over the floor, tied to each other with red elastic rope which is being moved into different shapes. The routine hints at stress, tension, and the suppression people have been feeling since the start of the COVID pandemic, organizers say.

Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony dancers
Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony dancers

Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony begins

The main Olympic stadium is far from filled but the atmosphere is nonetheless electric.

The ceremony began with a dancer, lit by a green light, with a seedling blossoming to represent life and growth.

Opening ceremony begins at Tokyo 2020
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics ceremony begins Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Jill Biden arrives at opening ceremony

The First Lady has now taken her seat with the ceremony just minutes away.

Jill Biden arrives ahead of opening ceremony
First Lady of the U.S. Jill Biden enters the main Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium ahead of the opening ceremony Dylan Martinez/Getty Images

206 nations to take part in opening ceremony parade, IOC confirms

The International Olympic Committee has released the order of the parade, with Greece entering first as per tradition and the host nation, Japan, entering last.

The Refugee Olympic team goes second in the parade. The others are slotted by their order in the Japanese alphabet, so Iceland and Ireland precede Azerbaijan, for example.

206 teams — 205 nations and the refugee team — will be taking part in the ceremony. Some nations will have their flags carried by volunteers while other nations will have only one flagbearer. Most will have two, with one male and one female athlete chosen for the role.

Fans gather outside main stadium while VIPs begin taking seats

Fans gather outside Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium
Fans gather outside Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium
Fans gather outside Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium
Tokyo 2020 staff prepare for opening ceremony

'Watch this space': Tokyo 2020 organizers hint at opening ceremony surprises

In a post on the official Olympics website, just an hour before the opening ceremony, organizers said:

The Opening Ceremony of an Olympic Games is always a closely-guarded secret, and Tokyo 2020 is no different.

1,000 VIP guests allowed into opening ceremony

As well as staff and media organizations, around 1,000 special VIP guests will be allowed to watch the opening ceremony from seats inside main Tokyo 2020 stadium.

Spectators were set to watch the Games until earlier this month, but were earlier in July told by organizers not to come amid fears of creating a COVID "superspreader" event.

Japans new national Olympic stadium in Tokyo
Japans new national Olympic stadium in Tokyo

Tokyo reports 1,359 new COVID cases in past 24 hours

The figure is lower than yesterday's 1,979 but shows the virus in the Olympic host city continues to spread rapidly.

Almost 100 staff and athletes associated with the Games are isolating, including U.S. tennis champion Coco Gauff.

Team USA swimmers get dressed up for the opening ceremony

Friday fits looking fresh 🔥#TokyoOlympics

— USA Swimming (@USASwimming) July 23, 2021

How to watch the opening ceremony in the U.S.

The opening ceremony will be broadcast live in the U.S. by NBC for early risers, with proceedings kicking off at 7am ET. It will also be via available streaming services such as fuboTV, Hulu Plus Live TV and YouTube TV, which all carry the NBC family of networks.

But if you want to watch after work, it is being repeated at 7.30pm ET on NBC.

READ MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympics Opening Ceremony: Start Time, How To Watch on TV and Live Stream

Hundreds protest in Tokyo against Olympic Games amid COVID-19 spike

Around 200 protesters gathered in central Tokyo ahead of the Olympic Games opening ceremony. They are demanding the event be canceled at the last moment due to spiraling COVID-19 cases.

Protesters in Tokyo demonstrate against Olympic Games
Protesters in Tokyo demonstrate against Olympic Games
Protesters in Tokyo demonstrate against Olympic Games
Protesters in Tokyo demonstrate against Olympic Games
Protesters in Tokyo demonstrate against Olympic Games

Mom of tennis champion Andy Murray gets a special receipt...

The Olympic Village Restaurant is printing out special receipts for Olympians who dine at the venue, displaying their top sporting achievements.

As you can see below, Andy Murray's tennis record is an impressive one. He and teammate Joe Salisbury will take on French players Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the tennis doubles on Sunday.

How cool…… @Olympics @andy_murray

— judy murray (@JudyMurray) July 23, 2021

100 U.S. athletes unvaccinated against COVID-19, Team USA confirms

The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee says 83 percent of 613 U.S. athletes descending on Tokyo for the Olympics have yet to receive a jab. Medical Director Jonathan Finnoff says 567 had filled out their health histories as they prepared for the trip, and that 83 percent is a substantial number which the committee is happy with.

The International Olympic Committee estimates that around 85% of residents of the Olympic Village are vaccinated.

What happens at the Olympic Games opening ceremony?

According to the official Olympics website, the ceremony will take place as follows:

  • Entrance of host country head of state
  • National anthem of host country
  • Parade by the participants
  • Symbolic release of doves
  • Opening of the Games by host country head of state
  • Olympic anthem played as Olympic flag brought into stadium and hoisted
  • Olympic oath taken by athlete
  • Olympic oath taken by official
  • Olympic oath taken by coach
  • Final leg of the Olympic torch relay and lighting of cauldron
  • Artistic program

The artistic pieces are set to be reflective and sobering this year, according to organizers, with the ceremony's creative team focused on a theme of "Moving Forward". It is expected to heavily feature references to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Good morning and welcome to the Newsweek live blog

Final preparations are underway hours before the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony.

Taking place from 7.55pm-12am local time (6.55-11am ET), it will be a subdued event with no spectators except officials, a select few guests and the media.

Stick with Newsweek's live blog for all the latest.