Olympic Ceremony 2021 Order of Countries: When Is Team USA Appearing?

The U.S. is slated to be among the last three countries to appear in the parade of athletes at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

Speaking to Newsweek, a spokesperson for the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games said: "Teams from the upcoming host countries of the corresponding Games will now march immediately before the current host delegation, which traditionally closes the athletes' parade."

Back in December 2019, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that France and the U.S.—the host countries for the upcoming Olympic Games in 2024 and 2028, respectively—will march just before Japan, to promote the future games.

So Team USA will be followed by France's team before Japan's Olympic athletes conclude the procession.

This year's marching order breaks the tradition of the parade outlined by the official Olympic Charter, which states: "The delegations parade in alphabetical order according to the language of the host country, except for Greece, which leads the parade, and for the host country, which brings up the rear."

The IOC stated: "The aim of the change is to increase the special focus that future hosts already enjoy over the course of their Games preparations by giving them prominence in the stadium and among global audiences during opening ceremonies."

Greece leads the parade of athletes as it is the historic site where the ancient Olympic Games were held and where the first edition of the modern Games took place in 1896.

The IOC said it intends to have future host countries march last at upcoming Olympic Games opening ceremonies, Kyodo News reported in December 2019.

Flag bearers at the 2018 Winter Games.
Flag bearers pictured during the parade of athletes at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

In another break from historical tradition, the marching order for the parade of athletes will be based on the alphabetical order of the Japanese language, rather than English, which was used when Japan previously hosted the Olympics, according to Kyodo News and the BBC.

The marching orders at the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo, the 1972 Winter Games in Sapporo and the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano were based on the English language to reflect the country's international understanding, Kyodo News reported.

However, this year's break from tradition aims to highlight the Japanese language, placing it at the center of the annual parade, the news agency reported in October 2020.

Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Team USA pictured at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Other Olympic Ceremony Protocols

The opening ceremony of the Olympics entails several elements, as outlined by Rule 55 of the Olympic Charter which outlines "the protocol that must be observed at the Opening Ceremony of the Games, including the wording of the opening words to be delivered by the representative of host country," the official Olympics website explains.

Below are some of the protocols that must be fulfilled.

Marching Rules

In addition to the marching order according to the language of the host country, athletes must march behind the flag of the country.

The Olympics website says: "Delegations should be treated equally! No single country must receive greater attention than any other. Each delegation is preceded by a board bearing its country's name, and by its flag. The usual practice is for the athletes to march behind the flag of their country, but there are sometimes exceptions."

Lighting of the Olympic Torch

The Olympic flame and the torch relay have become "two features of protocol that are inextricably linked" since the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, the website notes.

The flame is carried by relay from Olympia in Greece, where the ancient Olympic Games were held, to the Olympic stadium in the host city. The final torchbearer does a lap of the stadium before the flame is used to light the Olympic cauldron, which is extinguished only at the closing ceremony of the Olympics.

The Olympics website explains: "The Ancient Greeks considered fire to be a divine element, and they kept fires burning constantly in front of their principal temples.

"In ancient times, the flame was lit using the rays of the sun, to ensure its purity, and a skaphia, the ancestor of the parabolic mirror used today to light the Olympic flame," the website adds.

A 2021 Tokyo Olympics lighting ceremony.
The lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame at Machida Shibahiro, on the first day of the torch relay in the city of Machida in western Tokyo on July 9. Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images

Symbolic Release of the Doves

Doves are symbols of peace and after 1988, the opening ceremony has called for a symbolic release of the birds.

From 1936 to 1988, real pigeons were used for the ritual. But after the 1988 Summer Games in South Korea, the use of real birds was replaced by a symbolic release "following the unfortunate demise of several pigeons sitting on the edge of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Games in Seoul," the Olympics website says.

This symbolic release now takes place after the parade of athletes and before the lighting of the Olympic cauldron.

Official Opening of the Games

The host country's "Head of State" officially opens the Games by proclaiming: "I declare open the Games of ... (name of City) celebrating the ... Olympiad of the modern era (or the ... Olympic Winter Games)," as outlined in the Olympic Charter.

This is usually proclaimed by royalty and presidents, or their representatives, including a vice-president, a member of the royal family, or a governor-general, according to the Olympics website.

Raising of the Olympic Flag

Following the opening of the Games, the Olympic flag is raised. "The Olympic flag, unfurled horizontally, is brought into the stadium. The Olympic anthem is performed as the flag is raised to the top of the pole," the Olympics website says.

The flag must remain raised for the duration of the Games.

Full Marching Order for Parade of Athletes

  1. Greece
  2. Refugee Olympic Team
  3. Iceland
  4. Ireland
  5. Azerbaijan
  6. Afghanistan
  7. United Arab Emirates
  8. Algeria
  9. Argentina
  10. Aruba
  11. Albania
  12. Armenia
  13. Angola
  14. Antigua and Barbuda
  15. Andorra
  16. Yemen
  17. Israel
  18. Italy
  19. Iraq
  20. Iran
  21. India
  22. Indonesia
  23. Uganda
  24. Ukraine
  25. Uzbekistan
  26. Uruguay
  27. Great Britain
  28. British Virgin Islands
  29. Ecuador
  30. Egypt
  31. Estonia
  32. Eswatini
  33. Ethiopia
  34. Eritrea
  35. El Salvador
  36. Australia
  37. Austria
  38. Oman
  39. Netherlands
  40. Ghana
  41. Cape Verde
  42. Guyana
  43. Kazakhstan
  44. Qatar
  45. Canada
  46. Gabon
  47. Cameroon
  48. The Gambia
  49. Cambodia
  50. North Macedonia
  51. Guinea
  52. Guinea-Bissau
  53. Cyprus
  54. Cuba
  55. Kiribati
  56. Kyrgyzstan
  57. Guatemala
  58. Guam
  59. Kuwait
  60. Cook Islands
  61. Grenada
  62. Croatia
  63. Cayman Islands
  64. Kenya
  65. Ivory Coast
  66. Costa Rica
  67. Kosovo
  68. Comoros
  69. Colombia
  70. Republic of the Congo
  71. Democratic Republic of the Congo
  72. Saudi Arabia
  73. Samoa
  74. São Tomé and Príncipe
  75. Zambia
  76. San Marino
  77. Sierra Leone
  78. Djibouti
  79. Jamaica
  80. Georgia
  81. Syria
  82. Singapore
  83. Zimbabwe
  84. Switzerland
  85. Sweden
  86. Sudan
  87. Spain
  88. Suriname
  89. Sri Lanka
  90. Slovakia
  91. Slovenia
  92. Seychelles
  93. Equatorial Guinea
  94. Senegal
  95. Serbia
  96. Saint Kitts and Nevis
  97. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  98. Saint Lucia
  99. Somalia
  100. Solomon Islands
  101. Thailand
  102. South Korea
  103. Tajikistan
  104. Tanzania
  105. Czech Republic
  106. Chinese Taipei
  107. Chad
  108. Central African Republic
  109. China
  110. Tunisia
  111. Chile
  112. Tuvalu
  113. Denmark
  114. Germany
  115. Togo
  116. Dominica
  117. Dominican Republic
  118. Trinidad and Tobago
  119. Turkmenistan
  120. Turkey
  121. Tonga
  122. Nigeria
  123. Nauru
  124. Namibia
  125. Nicaragua
  126. Niger
  127. New Zealand
  128. Nepal
  129. Norway
  130. Bahrain
  131. Haiti
  132. Pakistan
  133. Panama
  134. Vanuatu
  135. Bahamas
  136. Papua New Guinea
  137. Bermuda
  138. Palau
  139. Paraguay
  140. Barbados
  141. Palestine
  142. Hungary
  143. Bangladesh
  144. East Timor
  145. Fiji
  146. Philippines
  147. Finland
  148. Bhutan
  149. Puerto Rico
  150. Brazil
  151. Bulgaria
  152. Burkina Faso
  153. Brunei
  154. Burundi
  155. American Samoa
  156. Virgin Islands
  157. Vietnam
  158. Benin
  159. Venezuela
  160. Belarus
  161. Belize
  162. Peru
  163. Belgium
  164. Poland
  165. Bosnia and Herzegovina
  166. Botswana
  167. Bolivia
  168. Portugal
  169. Hong Kong
  170. Honduras
  171. Marshall Islands
  172. Madagascar
  173. Malawi
  174. Mali
  175. Malta
  176. Malaysia
  177. Federated States of Micronesia
  178. South Africa
  179. South Sudan
  180. Myanmar
  181. Mexico
  182. Mauritius
  183. Mauritania
  184. Mozambique
  185. Monaco
  186. Maldives
  187. Moldova
  188. Morocco
  189. Mongolia
  190. Montenegro
  191. Jordan
  192. Laos
  193. Latvia
  194. Lithuania
  195. Libya
  196. Liechtenstein
  197. Liberia
  198. Romania
  199. Luxembourg
  200. Rwanda
  201. Lesotho
  202. Lebanon
  203. U.S.
  204. France
  205. Japan

Update 7/23/21, 9:51 a.m ET: This article was updated with comment from Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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