Cover The best moments from the Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

After a year delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games finally kicked off in Tokyo on July 23. These were the best moments at the opening ceremony.

Bringing together the most elite athletes from around the globe in celebration of the world of sport, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 has finally begun. Although not quite the Games that Tokyo had originally planned, and sure to be unlike any Olympics in history––with the event itself going ahead after a one year delay, no spectators permitted and more strict protocols in place due to the continued pandemic––the Tokyo Olympics 2020 officially kicked off today, July 23.

Although uncharacteristically low key for an opening ceremony, with just an estimated 950 VIPs in attendance, the event still managed to capture the spirit of the Games, together with the history and culture of Japan. From illuminated drones to the athletes parade and, of course, the ceremonial lighting of the cauldron to mark the official commencement of the Games, here are the 10 best moments from the opening ceremony of the 32nd Olympic Games.

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1 / 10

The Japanese flag enters the stadium

After a sombre start to the ceremony which looked back on the last year and depicted athletes training alone as the Games were postponed, it was time for the national flag of Japan to enter the stadium.

Carried by various members of Japan’s defence forces, ex-Japanese Olympians and key workers who served the country through the pandemic, the scene was set against a backdrop of a replica of Mount Fuji. As the flag was raised, the Japanese national anthem, Kimi Ga Yo, was sung by singer Misia––who wore a  show stopping rainbow-hued gown by Tomo Koizumi.

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2 / 10

A moment of silence

After the national anthem, the stadium fell into darkness and a moment of silence was recognised to remember those lost in the pandemic. As to be expected, the pandemic played a major part in the subdued ceremony’s theme.

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3 / 10

The forming of the Olympic Rings

After the traditional Japanese work song Komari Uttar was sung by a team of uniformed carpenters come dancers, large wooden structures each carrying a single ring entered the stadium.

The rings––which were handcrafted from wood from pine and spruce trees which were planted by Olympians after the 1954 Games in Tokyo––were illuminated by traditional Japanese paper lanterns. 

As the dancers continued, the rings slowly formed the iconic Olympic logo, followed by a score of fireworks erupting from the stadium in the traditional colours of the five rings.

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4 / 10

The athletes' parade

Though no fans were in attendance and some teams did not have their full teams in attendance, the athlete’s parade was an element of the ceremony to be remembered. 

Set to an epic orchestral medley of assorted Japanese video game themes, each of the 207 teams filed into the stadium proudly waving their nation’s flags. In keeping with tradition, Greece entered first, with the subsequent order of nations confusing many viewers as it didn’t follow the English alphabet, but the Japanese "alphabet", the syllabary system Katakana. 

Despite the pandemic, the Asian nations of India and Singapore have both sent their largest ever teams to the Games. 

We of course have to mention Pita Taufatofua, the topless Togan flag bearer who gained much attention at the 2016 Rio Games, and was back again in Tokyo. to bear his flag––and his chest.

Last to enter was the Japanese team, with their 615 athletes led by wrestler Yui Susaki and basketball player Rui Hachimura.

5 / 10

The drone globe

One of the most stunning moments of the ceremony was the so-called drone globe. 

Set high above the stadium, 1,824 illuminated drones were first arranged in the pattern of the Tokyo 2020 emblem, which then transformed into a revolving moon-like 3D globe––something that is sure to be one of the most iconic moments from the whole opening ceremony

The drone display gave way to a performance of John Lennon’s Imagine. Initially performed in the stadium, the song was then taken over by a recorded rendition by stars from each of the five continents represented with the Olympic rings: Angélique Kidjo from Africa, Alejandro Sanz from Europe, John Legend from the Americas, and Keith Urban from Australasia.

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6 / 10

"The unifying power of sport"

Addressing the stadium in his speech, president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach stated: "Today is a moment of hope. Yes, it is very different from what all of us had imagined. But let us cherish this moment because finally we are all here together: the athletes from 205 National Olympic Committees and the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, living under one roof together in the Olympic Village.

This is the unifying power of sport. This is the message of solidarity, the message of peace and the message of resilience. This gives all of us hope for our further journey together.

Closing his speech, Bach "humbly request[ed] his Majesty the Emperor to declare open the Tokyo Olympic Games", which was followed by yet more fireworks.

7 / 10

The Olympic flag

With the Japanese flag in place, it was time for the Olympic flag to enter. Carried in by an athlete from each of the five continents represented by the Olympic rings, along with a member of the Refugee Olympic team, the flag was then passed onto essential workers from Japan, and finally to assorted members of Japan’s defence forces.

As the flag was raised to fly alongside the Japanese flag, the new Olympic anthem Colourful was performed by a chorus of J-Pop artistes.

8 / 10

The pictogram performance

After a relatively sombre display so far, the act of bringing to life the Olympic pictograms––the graphic symbols that represent each sport, which were first introduced in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics––was one of the most fun moments of the ceremony. The impressive and speedy routine featured three blue and white clad performers precisely depicting each of the 50 symbols

9 / 10

The Olympic torch relay

The Olympic torch relay began on March 25 this year in Fukushima and was carried through every prefecture in Japan before arriving in Tokyo on July 9.

After being carried by 2,000 people, in the stadium we saw the torch be passed along by retired Japanese sporting legends, along with children from some of the prefectures which were worst affected in the 2011 earthquake.

10 / 10

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic Cauldron

Finally, tennis player Naomi Osaka, carried the torch to its final destination. As the replica of Mount Fuji opened to transform into the Olympic Cauldron, the athlete climbed the stairs to light it, before the stadium erupted once more in the final display of fireworks as the games were officially open.

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