Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony highlights: Naomi Osaka lights cauldron; drone display steals show as Mary, Manpreet lead Team India

Catch the highlights from the opening ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at Japan National Stadium in Tokyo.

The National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo bore witness to a tech spectacle, with 1824 drones coming together to form the Tokyo 2020 emblem.   -  Getty Images

Hello and welcome to the highlights of the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I'm Anjana Senthil and I will be taking you through the evening's proceedings.

Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh led the Indian contingent during the Parade of Nations. Read more: Tokyo Olympics: 19 Indian athletes to attend opening ceremony .

The ceremony ends with the final leg of the torch relay. Naomi Osaka wraps up the ceremony by lighting the Olympic cauldron. Naomi's scheduled opening round match was moved from tomorrow (Saturday) to Sunday due to her participation in the opening ceremony which went on for over 3.5 hours.


Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic flame to officially wrap up the Opening Ceremony of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.   -  GETTY IMAGES

The Tokyo Olympics saw a unique twist to the release of doves segment - Scottish singer Susan Boyle's performance was paired with a release of 'origami' doves. Japanese silent comedy pantomime duo MASA Aand Hitoshi also enacted the 50 sports pictogram that are being used in the Games this year. We also see a kabuki performance from Ebizo Ichikawa and a piano performance by Grammy winner Hiromi.

7.45pm: The Games are officially open:
"I declare open the Games of Tokyo, celebrating the XXXII Olympiad of the modern era," the Emperor of Japan Naruhito said as he declared the Games open.

7.15pm: The ceremony continues. We have a rendition of John Lennon's classic - Imagine with the Suginami Junior Chorus performing the song at the venue, while Angelique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz, John Legend, and Keith Urban joined in through pre-recorded versions, much like the Euro 2020 opening ceremony's performance ft Bono and Martin Garrix.

Right before that, the National Olympic Stadium bore witness to a tech spectacle, with 1824 drones coming together to form the Tokyo 2020 emblem.

7.10pm: The Parade of Nations has concluded with the host Japan being the last nation to walk out into the Olympic Stadium. We now have the Olympic Oath.  Ryota Yamagata (athletics) and Kasumi Ishikawa (table tennis) read the oath on behalf of all the athletes participating in this edition of the Games.

If you're wondering what this Oath is and why they take it, here's some reading material -  What is the Olympic Oath and what does it signify?

Star flag-bearer: Pita’s back, and he brought back his oil.

The shirtless Tongan whose fame rocketed after entering the 2016 Olympics with his upper body glistening for all to see — his name is Pita Taufatofua, by the way — returned to the Tokyo Games as one of his nation’s flagbearers again.

And yes, he was shirtless.

It’s the third consecutive Olympics in which Taufatofua has competed as an athlete. He competed in taekwondo at the Rio Games, took part in skiing at Pyeongchang in 2018 — yes, shirtless for that one, too — and is back in Tokyo as part of his taekwondo team again. Taufatofua tried to qualify in kayaking, but didn’t make the Tokyo cut in that sport.

He’s also used his fame for good. Taufatofua is a UNICEF ambassador, works with homeless shelters and is busy raising money for sporting equipment for nations in need.


Trepidations throughout Japan have threatened for months to drown out the usual carefully packaged glitz of the opening. Inside the stadium after dusk Friday, however, a carefully calibrated ceremony sought to portray that the Games — and their spirit — are going on.

Colourful ceremonial suits, music inspired by elements from editions past and the concept of togetherness through difficult times marks the Opening Ceremony in this edition of the Olympics. 

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and boxer Ricardo Brown lead out Team Jamaica in the parade of nations. For China, volleyball player Zhu Ting and taekwondo athlete Zhao Shuai were the flag-bearers. China has sent 414 athletes to Tokyo while USA has sent the largest contingent of 613 athletes. Host Japan will be represented by 552 athletes.


Kyrgyzstan's Olympic team paraded maskless   -  Getty Images


MASKLESS: Kyrgyzstan's Olympic team paraded maskless, marking an awkward contrast with all the national teams who had preceded them in masks - and in accordance with COVID-19 protocols. Tajikistan team also marched in maskless, while Pakistan's two flagbearers also chose not to cover their faces.

Cultural representation: Vanuatu and Tonga's flagbearers caused quite a stir on social media when they walked in shirtless and slathered in oil. Island countries were certainly the more colourful among the teams inside the stadium today. 

Fun and frolic: The sight of flagbearers from Portugal jumping up and down and round with the flag pole and their compatriots matching up to them with the sprightly strides sure did spread a few smiles.

ORDER OF ENTRY: If you are confused about the order of the nations marching out, it is because the order is based on Japanese-language names and Japan's "fifty-sound" phonetic order. So you have Burkina Faso walking in as the 158th nation while Uganda is No. 23 in the marching order.   

Just a few hundred officials and dignitaries were in the stands of the 68,000-seat venue, including French President Emmanuel Macron, US First Lady Jill Biden, and Japan's Emperor Naruhito, who will declare the Games open.


5:22pm: Indians take the march NOW. Mary Kom and Manpreet Singh, India's flagbearers lead the way.  Dressed in smart formals, Indians make the short walk into the stadium. India was the 21st team to enter the stadium. Back home, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Thakur was also seen waving the Indian flag as the Indian contingent made its way into the stadium.

While the opening ceremony officially kicked off the Tokyo 2020 Games, India began its campaign earlier in the day with individual ranking rounds in archery. Deepika finished ninth while the men gave a below-par performance. Pravin Jadhav, Atanu Das and Tarundeep Rai took the 31st, 35th an d 37th slots respectively on the men’s ranking list. (REPORT)

Did you know ?

An orchestral medley of songs from iconic Japanese video games served 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.

Manga, manga everywhere: The placards for the country names for the parade of athletes used manga speech bubbles, and the costumes for the placard bearers and assistants had manga touches in their design.

For the uninitiated, manga roughly refers to comics and graphic novels from Japan, while anime — another popular Japanese art form — covers animation from the country. Manga is a Japanese word meaning whimsical pictures. - AP


Performers dance around a large Olympic Rings logo during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Here is the order of the Parade of Nations and list of flag-bearers.

As is the tradition, Greece will be the first NOC to take the walk. It is a largely subdued affair. Though there is no limit on the number of athletes, most of the countries have gone for a shorter contingent to take the march. The number of officials who can accompany the athletes are restricted to six members. 19 athletes will be walking for India. Japan, the host, will walk lost. In a departure from traditions, Team USA and France will walk at the end to signify their role as the next hosts of the Olympics. A total of 206 teams are expected to take part in the parade of nations.


A dance performance as an ode to the workers and the efforts they have put it to make this Olympics come alive in trying times for the world.  It was performed by members of Japanese traditional firefighting association. It is followed by celebration of different cultures, of overcoming obstacles and spreading joy.

A moment of silence is observed for the lives lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Among the people this moment of rememberance paid tribute to are the 11 Israeli athletes who died at the Munich Games.

President of the IOC Thomas Bach, left, and Japan's Emperor Naruhito wave during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.   -  AP


Japanese Emperor Narahito and IOC president Thomas Bach greet each other. Japan's Olympic champions and athletes of eminence make their way into the stadium carrying the national flag. A health/ rescue worker is also among the elite six carrying the Japanese flag - a fitting recognition to the work done by them during the pandemic. 

UNITED BY EMOTION is the theme of the Games opening ceremony.

4:30pm: It's showtime.

Keeping with the times the games is being held in, the opening ceremony begins with a show depicting athletes training in solitude due to the pandemic - practicing their moves, the jumps, the runs and game skills. The hums of exertion, the perserverance is shown through the sounds of thuds on treadmill and the panting. 

"It began with a single female athlete at the center of the stadium, kneeling. As she stood, the shadow behind her took the shape of a seedling, growing as she walked. A number of athletes were featured in a video that started with the moment Tokyo won the Olympic bid in 2013, then eventually to images of a world silenced by the pandemic.

Then came the fireworks, a 20-second blast of light — as if to say these Olympics have finally emerged from dark times." - AP

Sportstar's Shyam Vasudevan will bring you the latest from the Olympic Games in Tokyo.


While we wait for the olympic ceremony to begin, do check out our terrific Olympics lists of facts, quirks and more.

Our INDIA IN TOKYO section has all the information you need about the Indian athletes competing for glory in Japan.

Indians in action: Full schedule - Events, Fixtures, Dates, Timings in IST

Mary Kom, Manpreet to be India's flagbearers

With organisers changing their rule to allow two flagbearers this time as part of their measures to promote gender equality, several nations will be represented by a man and a woman . India will see 19 athletes and six officials in attendance for the opening ceremony with boxing superstar Mary Kom and men's hockey team captain Manpreet Singh being chosen as the country's flag-bearers.

India will be the 21st in order for Parade of Nations. 

Crowds gather outside Tokyo stadium for opening ceremony

Fans are not allowed for the ceremony or for the Games, but that didn't stop hundreds of people from gathering outside the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo to soak up the atmosphere

Protests in Tokyo ahead of Olympics opening ceremony:

Protesters gathered outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building chanting “no to the Olympics” and “save people’s lives." They held up signs reading “cancel the Olympics."

The Games, largely without spectators and opposed by much of the host nation, are going ahead a year later than planned.


A day earlier, Tokyo hit another six-month high in new COVID-19 cases as worries grew of worsening infections during the Games. Still, the number of cases and deaths as a share of the population in Japan are much lower than in many other countries.


The Tokyo Olympics opens on Friday with a ceremony reflecting a Games like no other, walking a fine line between celebrating the feats of the world's best athletes while acknowledging the global hardship caused by the coronavirus. Postponed for a year, organisers were forced to take the unprecedented step of holding the Games without fans as the pandemic continues to take lives around the world. Even the opening ceremony normally a star-studded display teeming with celebrities, will have fewer than 1,000 people in attendance.

Regardless, it marks a coming together of the world, with an audience of hundreds of millions around the globe and at various stages of the pandemic expected to tune into together to watch the start of the greatest show in sport.

It will cap a rollercoaster 18 months of preparations for the athletes hoping to realise their career dreams.

Some will use the occasion to make statements about equality and justice and several nations will be represented by a man and a woman after the organisers changed their rules to allow two flagbearers.


A quick guide to the Olympic ceremony:

Where is ceremony being held?

The opening ceremony will be hosted by the Japan National Stadium  in Tokyo.

What time does the opening ceremony begin?

The ceremony in Tokyo will begin at 4:30 pm IST on July 23, 2021. Telecast will begin 30 minutes earlier

Where can one watch the ceremony live?

The opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be telecast on Sony Sports Network and Doordarshan from 4.30pm IST. You can also catch the ceremony on the Sony Liv app. +