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Athletes Celebrated The Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony In An Empty Stadium

Due to the pandemic, the opening ceremony took place Friday before a practically empty stadium. But the host country Japan still put on a dazzling show.

Posted on July 23, 2021, at 10:29 a.m. ET

Amid protests, athletes testing positive for COVID-19, a scandal involving the opening ceremony director, and a coronavirus surge in Tokyo, the 2020 Olympics kicked off (one year late) on Friday with a dazzling opening ceremony.

Despite the largely empty stands and curious choreography (which, to be fair, happens every year — remember the UK's beds on wheels in 2012?), the athletes looked happy to be representing their countries at long last.

Let the Games begin!

Stanislav Krasilnikov / Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

Performers at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games at the Japan National Stadium.

Yukihito Taguchi / USA TODAY Sports

A general view of the Olympic rings outside during the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games.

Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports

People sit in the near-empty stadium before the opening ceremony.

Hannah Mckay / POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Angola's flag-bearer Natalia Santos leads the delegation during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony's parade of athletes.

Stanislav Krasilnikov / Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS

Performers at the opening ceremony

Abbie Parr / Getty Images

Dancers perform during the opening ceremony.

Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

A dancer performs during the opening ceremony.

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A performer on a bike during the opening ceremony

Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

Performers dance during the opening ceremony.

Marko Djurica / Reuters

A performer on a treadmill at the opening ceremony.

David J. Phillip / AP

Lanterns are displayed during the opening ceremony.

Ben Stansall / AFP via Getty Images

Eritrea's delegation parade during the opening ceremony.

Hannah Mckay - Pool / Getty Images

Athletes from Team Iraq are seen during the opening ceremony.

Stephen Mccarthy / Sportsfile via Getty Images

Athletes from Team Italy during the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games opening ceremony

Andrej Isakovic / AFP via Getty Images

Members of Kenya's delegation pose for a photo during the opening ceremony.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters

An athlete from Cameroon during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony.

Jeff Roberson / AP

Athletes march in during the opening ceremony.

Kyle Terada / USA TODAY Sports

Recording artist Misia performer the Japanese national anthem as the Japanese flag is raised during the opening ceremony.

Geoff Burke / USA TODAY Sports

IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Emperor Naruhito are introduced.

Marko Djurica / Reuters

A general view inside the stadium before the opening ceremony

Mike Blake / Reuters

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony.

Marko Djurica / Reuters

The Olympic cauldron is lit by Naomi Osaka during the opening ceremony.

Toru Hanai / Getty Images

A general view outside the stadium as fireworks are set off during the opening ceremony

Picture Alliance / dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Fireworks are lit over the stadium.


A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.