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Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony: When does it start, what to expect and primetime schedule

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After a year-long delay, the Tokyo Olympics' opening ceremony is around the corner.

Before athletes begin competing for podium positions. Before they can dream of shattering records, they will take part in the games' largest spectacle.

It will look different — international spectators were banned from the Games months ago, and just over a week before the opening ceremony, Japan entered a state of emergency and local fans were barred as well. Organizers said Thursday that the crowd on hand will be limited to about 950 people, including VIPs, government officials and foreign dignitaries. First Lady Jill Biden will be there as the head of the U.S. delegation, and the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee has said it expects about 230 of its athletes to march during the ceremony.

Organizers also announced Thursday that they dismissed the director of the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics after learning that he made light of the Holocaust in a comedy routine.

Friday night, however, Tokyo will be consumed by pageantry and glamor as more than 200 nations and their athletes will descend upon Olympic Stadium to watch to torch lighting.

A general view of the Olympic Rings in Odaiba before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
A general view of the Olympic Rings in Odaiba before the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Details about the content of the opening ceremony remain largely under wraps, though it is expected to have more of a somber, thankful note than other recent ceremonies, with COVID-19 likely to be a major theme. It will all fit the theme "Moving Forward," with Tokyo 2020 officials wanting to "Reaffirm the role of sport and the value of the Olympic Games."

Here's what's to expect from Friday's opening ceremony.

When do the Tokyo 2020 Olympics start?

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad will begin on Friday, July 23 and go through Sunday, August 8, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan.

When does the opening ceremony begin?

The Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony takes place at Friday, July 23 at 7 a.m. EST.

Where will the ceremony be broadcast?

Opening Ceremony will be broadcast live on NBC beginning at 6:55 a.m. EST.

It will be the network’s first-ever live morning broadcast of an Opening Ceremony. Primetime coverage of the re-air will begin at 7:30 p.m.EST on NBC, the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com.

Savannah Guthrie and Mike Tirico will host NBC's coverage of the opening ceremony.

Below is NBC's full schedule of the opening ceremony:

6:55 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. Live Opening Ceremony Coverage

11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. Special Edition of TODAY

1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.Tokyo Olympics Daytime

7:30 p.m. – Primetime Opening Ceremony

12:35 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. Overnight Replay of Opening Ceremony

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics will air across NBC, USA, CNBC, NBCSN, Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA, GOLF Channel, Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.

What to expect

Past opening ceremonies have celebrated the host nation's culture.

Japanese opening ceremonies have celebrated the nation's ancient history. This year, there may be a more modern approach. Previous Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed up as Mario during the handover at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony. Many expect another appearance by the mascot as the opening ceremony may dedicate itself to Japan's influence on modern technology and pop culture.

Though the stadium will lack fans, there will not be artificial noise pumped in. Officials will instead use more audio equipment to try and catch more natural sounds.

There will still be flag bearers, and this year's order of nations appearing will diverge from what has been done in the past. Greece traditionally leads the procession and the other nations follow in alphabetical order. This year, the parade will honor host countries for upcoming Games so France and then the United States will march in before Japan.

Many teams will walk in with two flag bearers; one male and one female. The IOC Executive Board changed protocol guidelines to "send a strong message of inclusive and gender-equal Olympic Games where women and men have equal prominence."

Bangladeshi economist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus will be awarded the Olympic Laurel. Awarding the laurel began in Rio 2016 to honor "an outstanding individual for their achievements in education, culture, development and peace through sport."

Team USA's threads

As in the past, Team USA's clothing was designed by Ralph Lauren. The uniforms feature jackets over striped blue and white shirts, American flag scarves and blue jeans. The uniforms will also include branded masks.

The flag bearer will wear a self-cooling, white sporting jacket.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Olympics opening ceremony in Tokyo: TV channel, time, what to expect

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