We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

How to watch Tokyo Olympics 2020 opening ceremony – UK time and who’s performing

The Tokyo-based event will retain the 2020 Olympics name despite being delayed by a year.

Olympics

It’s the day sports fans across the world have been waiting for – the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympics games.

Advertisement

After a super summer of sport including the Euro 2020 competition, Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix, we now have 19 days of thrilling action to look forward to.

The Tokyo Olympics, which are still known as the 2020 Olympics, may have been cancelled last year, but that won’t stop the great and the good from the world of sport competing for that all-important gold medal.

While some of the games are already underway, there’s the small matter of the opening ceremony to look forward to.

Although promising to be a more “sobering” show, spectators can still expect plenty of surprises from today’s delightful presentation.

While exact details are kept under tight wraps, we can hope to see special appearances from everyone’s favourite Italian plumber, Mario, as the ceremony looks at Japan’s incredible technological developments.

And for fans of Team GB, expect to see around 30 of the 200-strong group in the National Stadium, including Team GB flagbearers Mohamed Sbihi and Hannah Mills.

As excitement builds for Tokyo’s Olympics 2020 opening ceremony, read on for your essential guide to the ceremony.

When is the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony?

The Olympics 2020 opening ceremony will officially kick off the international competition at the Japan National Stadium on Friday 23rd July 2021.

This is a day earlier than originally planned before COVID-19 pushed the games back a year.

What time is the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony on?

The event will start at 12pm UK time. The build-up will start at 11:20am on BBC One and the coverage will end at 4pm.

Tokyo will be eight hours ahead, with the event taking place on Friday at 8 pm local time at the National Stadium in Tokyo.

It is scheduled to last for three and a half hours.

How to watch the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony in the UK

The BBC and Eurosport have the rights to broadcast the Olympics this year.

As well as being broadcast live on BBC One, the opening ceremony will also be available to stream on BBC iPlayer, with extra coverage on the BBC Red Button and the BBC Sport website.

Clare Balding and Alex Scott will host proceedings, with commentary from Hazel Irvine and Andrew Cotter.

The opening ceremony will also be available to view on Eurosport. You can add a Eurosport subscription to your Sky, BT or Virgin contract, or get access to the Eurosport Player direct for £6.99 per month or £39.99 a year.

Eurosport is also available as an add-on to Amazon Prime Video with a 7-day free trial. 

How long is the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony?

The current programme showing the presentation is scheduled to air between 11:20am and 4pm, the opening ceremony is expected to last for three hours.

During this, viewers can expect to see each nation enter with their flags, the lighting of the Olympic torch, and a celebration of Japanese culture, welcoming spectators to this year’s games.

Who’s performing at the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony?

mario odyssey

A full list of performers has not been announced, but Emporer Naruhito is expected to formally open the ceremony with a brief declaration. Blue Impulse, the aerobatics squadron of the Japanese Air Self Defense Force, will also perform on the day of the ceremony, reportedly to draw the Olympic Rings over the stadium.

Music will be provided by Japanese artists Seigen Tokuzawa, Marihiko Hara, and Masayuki Kagei, with comedy-duo HIRO-PON also expected to make an appearance. Previous rumours have suggested that there will be a bigger focus on the country’s technology and popular culture than previous Japanese opening ceremonies, with a reported appearance of national animated icons such as Mario and Hello Kitty.

However, despite some famous faces the ceremony will be a “sobering” affair according to senior advisor to the Tokyo ceremonies executive producer Marco Balich.

“It will be a much more sobering ceremony. Nevertheless with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality,” Balich said.

“We have to do our best to complete this unique and hopefully the only one of its kind Olympics.”

Indeed much of the ceremony is expected to be pre-recorded, with live performances only taking place in front of a small VIP audience adhering to strict social distancing rules. Only 30 British athletes are thought to be attending the prestigious event due to safety concerns, despite over 200 Team GB athletes currently residing in Olympic Village.

However, there will be hope during the event – the theme of the Olympic Ceremonies will be “Moving Forward”, a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic that will be directly addressed during the show. A more specific theme for the Opening Ceremony in particular will be United by Emotion, which is also the slogan of the Tokyo 2020 games as a whole.

However, all the traditional opening ceremony proceedings are expected to go ahead, including welcoming speeches, hoisting of the flags and the parade of athletes – albeit a smaller parade than usual – with teams entering in alphabetical order based on the names of countries in the Japanese language for the first time.

What happens at the Olympics opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony usually includes the entry of the host nation’s head of state and the playing of that country’s national anthem, the parade of athletes, the symbolic release of (fake) doves, the opening of the Games by the head of state, which is  Japanese Emperor Naruhito this year, the taking of various oaths and an artistic program.

Read more: Why Team USA won’t dip their flag at the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Where is the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony taking place?

The Japan National Stadium will be used for the opening ceremony (and the closing ceremony). The multi-purpose stadium is generally used for football in Tokyo.

Which GB athletes will be attending the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony? 

All nations are expected to have smaller numbers this year due to the pandemic and safety guidelines.

Team GB will be represented by no more than 30 athletes who have chosen to march.

Who are the Olympics 2020 Team GB flag bearers?

Olympic gold medallists Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sibihi have been selected as Team GB flagbearers. Mills and Sibihi were elected after the Olympic Committee allowed federations to nominate one female and one male athlete for the honour, which made a change to tradition.

The decision was made by a panel headed by Team GB chef de mission Mark England. They will follow Sir Andy Murray and Sir Chris Hoy, the flag bearers in Rio and London, as well as Anita Lonsborough, who was the first female to carry the flag for Team GB in Tokyo back in 1964.

“To be asked to carry the flag for Team GB at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games is not a sentence I thought I’d say,” sailing champ Mils said.

“When Mark England told me I had been chosen, it was completely overwhelming and when I had a moment to think about what it meant, I got pretty emotional.”

“It is an iconic moment within the Olympic movement – people remember those images,” said Sibihi.

Will the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony be different this year due to COVID?

There have been some changes to the opening ceremony and Olympic games due to the ongoing pandemic. Fans will not be allowed at most Olympic events this year.

Will there be fans at the Olympics 2020 opening ceremony?

No, on account of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all spectators have been banned from the National Stadium.

Tokyo had previously declared a state of emergency after a surge in coronavirus cases, so no international fans were allowed – this has since been extended to all fans.

Advertisement

The Olympics 2020 opening ceremony airs at 11:20am on BBC One and Eurosport. If you’re looking for something else to watch check out our TV Guide. Visit our dedicated hub for more Sports news.