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Current time in Tokyo: July 23, 9:38 a.m.
Here’s what you need to know:
Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
TOKYO — Friday brings what is usually a celebratory highlight of any Olympic Games, the opening ceremony. The pageantry, speeches and the athlete parade will play out as usual, but very likely without the zest and excitement of a typical Olympics.
Most notably, the stands will be virtually empty, and the athletes of the world will be waving to television cameras rather than a stadium full of fans and dignitaries.
To top it off, whatever spectacle is planned will be undercut because Kentaro Kobayashi, the creative director of the ceremony, was dismissed Thursday after video emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust.
In the United States, NBC has typically held the broadcast of the ceremony until the evening, but this year it can be seen live at 6:55 a.m. Eastern. The traditional tape-delayed prime time showing is at 7:30 p.m., and there’s a third chance to see it for night owls at 1:38 a.m. Saturday.
Friday is officially Day 0 of the Olympic Games, and while there isn’t a lot of athletic competition to go with the opening ceremony, there is a little more than zero.
Archers will have their qualifying day to determine the seedings when the competition proper begins. And there will be preliminary heats in some rowing events.
Take a breath. A deluge of sports, from table tennis to yachting, is coming for 18 straight days starting on Saturday.
Credit…James Hill for The New York TimesCredit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesCredit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
There is less than a day to the opening ceremony, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are abuzz. Athletes are at training venues working to get in any last-minute tweaks before the start of their competitions, officials are checking to make sure everything is safe and secure, and volunteers are running around to make sure things go smoothly. Our photographers bring you an inside look at what it has been like to be on the ground.
Credit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesCredit…Doug Mills/The New York TimesCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesCredit…James Hill for The New York TimesCredit…Alexandra Garcia/The New York TimesCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesCredit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
After a yearlong delay, the opening ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is almost here. But with social distancing and no fans, the ceremony, much like the Games, will look a lot different.
When is the opening ceremony?
The opening ceremony for the Olympics is scheduled for Friday night in Tokyo. But the 13-hour time difference with Tokyo means it will be Friday morning in the Eastern time zone of the United States.
How can I watch it?
NBC will have a live morning broadcast of the ceremony starting at 6:55 a.m Eastern time, marking the first time the network has ever had a live morning broadcast of the event. Savannah Guthrie, the anchor for “Today,” and NBC Sports’ Mike Tirico will host NBC’s coverage. The ceremony can also be streamed on the NBC Sports App and on NBCOlympics.com
Afterward, NBC will also broadcast a special edition of “Today” that includes athlete interviews, followed by an Olympic daytime show.
Similar to years past, the network will air a packaged prime time version of the ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Eastern on Friday. Coverage will also be replayed again overnight for viewers who missed earlier broadcasts.
Who is leading Team U.S.A. in the Parade of Nations?
One of the highlights of the opening ceremony is the Parade of Nations. U.S. women’s basketball player Sue Bird, who has won gold four times, and baseball player Eddy Alvarez, a 2014 silver medalist in speedskating, will be the flag bearers for the United States and will lead the delegation of more than 230 U.S. players. (There are 613 athletes total on Team U.S.A.)
“It’s an incredible honor to be selected the flag bearer for Team USA,” Bird said in a statement.
Alvarez, too, said he was humbled by the selection. “It is an honor and a privilege to be named as one of the flag bearers by my fellow Team U.S.A. athletes for the opening ceremony. Being a first-generation Cuban-American, my story represents the American dream,” Alvarez said.
What are some of the changes to the ceremony this year?
Athletes will parade through a largely empty Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, as spectators have been barred from most of the Games. Performers at this year’s lineup have not yet been announced. And NBC has no plans to add background noise that mimics the fans in the stands throughout the Games, NBC Olympics executive producer Molly Solomon said during a call last week. That’s a departure from last year, when most broadcasters would pipe in recorded fans for games during the pandemic.
The opening ceremony comes at a time when games have already been underway in Tokyo, and anxieties about the virus are high. Tokyo’s infection rate hit a six-month high. Adding to that anxiety is the flurry of announcements about Olympic participants testing positive, including those inside the Olympic Village.
What else should I know?
Other news has also overshadowed the event in recent days.
On Thursday, organizers of the Games dismissed Kentaro Kobayashi, the creative director of the ceremony, after video footage emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust in a comedic act in the 1990s.
Mr. Kobayashi’s dismissal followed the resignation of the composer who had written music for the opening ceremony, after excerpts from interviews he had given in the 1990s confessing to severe bullying and abuse of disabled classmates surfaced on social media.
Jill Biden arrived in Japan on Thursday for the opening of the Tokyo Olympics on her first international trip alone as first lady, a two-day mission geared at generating enthusiasm for an event shadowed and shackled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Biden flew into the Yokota Air Base near Tokyo, where she was met by a Japanese diplomatic delegation before heading in a motorcade to the Akasaka Palace for a scheduled dinner with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga.
Her trip came as Covid-19 infections in Japan, fueled by the contagious Delta variant, hit a six-month high, according to The Associated Press.
Dr. Biden, leading a scaled-back U.S. delegation, was scheduled to meet Ms. Suga at the palace on Friday morning, followed by a “virtual get-together” with members of the U.S. Olympic team and culminating with her attendance at the opening ceremony at Olympic Stadium.
Dr. Biden’s role in Tokyo is a familiar one for a political spouse who was often expected to project warmth and enthusiasm on behalf of her husband during a 2020 campaign in which public events, if staged at all, were sanitized and socially distanced.
The organizers of this year’s games have banned alcohol in the venues, strictly limited attendance at most events and imposed other restrictions on the behavior of fans to limit the spread of the virus.
Late Wednesday, during a refueling stopover in Anchorage en route to Japan, Dr. Biden made an impassioned plea for Alaskans to get vaccinated to save lives and speed the return to normality.
“Even as we celebrate the progress we’ve made, we know that this last push is the hardest of all,” Dr. Biden said.
“Recently, a woman came up to me to thank me for the work our administration has done to get shots in arms,” she added. “She fought back tears when she told me that she lost four family members to Covid last year. Four.”
Credit…Kimimasa Mayama/EPA, via Shutterstock
[A full guide to watching the Opening Ceremony live.]
TOKYO — Just a day before the opening ceremony of the delayed Tokyo Olympics, organizers of the Games dismissed Kentaro Kobayashi, the creative director of the ceremony, after video footage emerged of him making fun of the Holocaust in a comedic act in the 1990s.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Japan’s Olympics minister, Seiko Hashimoto, sounding beleaguered after a run of scandals that have plagued the Games and the creative staff of the opening ceremony in particular, said she had learned about the routine on Wednesday. In the skit, Kobayashi joked about “massacring Jews” while miming the act of cutting up human figures made of paper. The organizing committee, she said, decided to dismiss him “immediately.”
In a statement, Kobayashi said that he had regretted the routine after he made it and “started aiming to create comedies that don’t hurt others.”
“I understand that my choice of words was wrong, and regret it,” his statement said. “I apologize to those who felt displeasure.”
The organizing committee, in a statement, said Kobayashi had “made a mockery of a painful historic fact in the past” and apologized “for having caused troubles and concerns to many stakeholders, and residents of Tokyo and Japan.”
The swift decision to dismiss Kobayashi was in contrast to the resignation this week of Keigo Oyamada, a composer who had written music for the opening ceremony, after excerpts from interviews he had given in the 1990s confessing to severe bullying and abuse of disabled classmates surfaced on social media.
Oyamada at first apologized, and it appeared he would keep his job before a widespread campaign on social media prompted him to resign. “We should have dismissed Mr. Oyamada sooner,” Hashimoto said.
Kobayashi is the second creative director of the opening ceremony to step down. In March, Hiroshi Sasaki resigned after a magazine revealed that he had compared a popular comedian and plus-size fashion designer to a pig when proposing her participation in the ceremony. Sasaki’s resignation came just weeks after Yoshiro Mori, the former president of the Tokyo organizing committee, also resigned after making sexist comments about women.
On Twitter, some people questioned why Kobayashi was being fired for an old routine, but others said his dismissal was not sufficient. “Kentaro Kobayashi’s dismissal after the discovery of the Holocaust skit in the past is a quick measure,” wrote one poster. “But are they going to perform what this guy directed at tomorrow’s opening ceremony? Is the problem solved just because he was dismissed?”
Asked if she regretted going forward with the Games amid the unfurling scandals and rising coronavirus cases in the Olympic Village, Hashimoto acknowledged that the Tokyo organizers are “facing every single possible problem.” But, she said, “we want you to remember Tokyo for overcoming a lot of issues and having success.”
From protests and Covid-related bans on fans, join Times journalists for a virtual event as we discuss what this moment means for the Olympics. Plus learn about the sports new to the Games through interviews with U.S. surfer Carissa Moore, skateboarders Zion Wright and Jordyn Barratt, and Czech climber Adam Ondra. Click the button above to R.S.V.P.