How to Watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony & How This Year's Is Different

Set your alarms bright and early for Friday, July 23—or wait for the many reruns.


We have waited four long years for the summer Olympics to roll around, and then, we waited one more year. Following a COVID-related postponement, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will finally go down (and yes, they're still being called the 2020 Olympics). And while things might look a little different than in years past—like the fact that zero fans will be present at the events—some traditions remain. Namely, the time-honored opening ceremony, which, by the way, is such a momentous event it's only two awards shy of an EGOT.

Obviously, there's a bit of a time difference between the US and Tokyo, so you might need to set your alarm extra early for this one. Here's when, where, and how to watch the opening ceremony.

How to watch the opening ceremony

Because of the 14-hour time difference, coverage begins bright and early in the US—promptly at 7 am EST on Friday, July 23, 2021.

Now as to how you'll watch, you're in luck. For the first time ever, the opening ceremony will air live on NBC with extra coverage on and on the NBC Sports app, as well as on NBC Universal's streaming service, Peacock.

Of course, if watching the opening ceremony that early doesn't sound appealing to you, good news: NBC will rebroadcast the event at 7:30 pm EST. 

What to look out for while you watch

Though we don't know too much about this year's opening ceremony just yet (including how many athletes will be in attendance given COVID restrictions and capacity limits), we do know the theme: "United by Emotion."

Savannah Guthrie is set to host the event alongside NBC Sports' Mike Tirico, and while she too remained tight-lipped on details, fans can expect a "really big, beautiful, patriotic show." As we've come to expect from opening ceremonies, there will be plenty of fireworks and flagbearers before athletes and coaches take the Olympic oath and the Games are officially open.

While, as is standard, Greece goes first and the host country goes last when entering the event, according to Japanese news outlet Kyodo News, this year each country's Japanese-language name will determine its positioning in the "Parade of Nations." Tokyo organizers are also planning to drop opening ceremony hints leading up to the event, so you might want to stay tuned into the Olympics social media channels for the hot deets.

In a historic moment, for the first time ever, nearly every country is representing their nation with both a female and male flag bearer—a powerful message communicating gender equality. The International Olympic Committee announced the change earlier this year.

"With 49 percent female participation, Tokyo 2020 will be the first gender-equal Olympic Games ever," the IOC said in a statement in May. "For the first time, there will be at least one female and one male athlete in each of the teams participating in the Games."

Basketball star Sue Bird and baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez served as flag bearers for Team USA. As for what to expect of Team USA's uniforms? Ralph Lauren unveiled navy blazers, printed scarves, shoes, and branded masks—as well as battery-powered cooling jackets to combat the Tokyo heat.

Check back during the games for all of Thrillist’s continuing Olympics coverage. Think of us like an all-knowing friend watching along with you to answer all the most important questions, like how heavy Olympic medals are, or why this year’s games are still called the 2020 Olympics. We'll explain everything from what ROC means to why athletes are sleeping on cardboard beds, and much, much more.

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Megan Schaltegger is a staff writer at Thrillist.