Opening Ceremony: Best, worst moments of the Olympics' start

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The Olympics began officially on Friday with an Opening Ceremony that pinballed, as is Olympic custom, between cheesy showmanship and inspirational majesty. We ran through the event as it happened, but in case you missed it, or if you want an early preview before it re-airs Friday night, here you go, the best and worst moments of a (long) night:

The drone globe. Easily the highlight of the night, a collection of 1,824 drones that floated above the stadium. It was a powerful spectacle, technology raised to the level of art. The followup sequence, a children's choir singing the phenomenally overplayed "Imagine," was ... not quite as inspiring.

Naomi Osaka's moment. (Franck Fife / Getty)
Naomi Osaka's moment. (Franck Fife / Getty)

The torch lighting. Always a powerful moment, the lighting of the torch signals the beginning of two weeks of Olympics, and a connection to all those Games that have come before. Naomi Osaka won the honor of lighting the torch this year, taking the handoff from a range of Japanese sports legends and representative figures. The cauldron itself, a globe that divided into slices, was an impressive bit of technology itself. 

[How to watch Tokyo Opening Ceremony in prime time]

Pictograms come alive. The most love-or-hate moment of the Opening Ceremony, with dancers portraying each of the 50 disciplines that represent all the sports at the Summer Olympics. It was either an impressive display of physical skill or a too-long, too-cute performance, your pick. Give the pictogram dancer credit for a very quick recovery here, though:

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The music. Jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara played a thrilling, and not pre-recorded, sequence live, followed by a kabuki excerpt from the play "Shibaraku." Also throughout the march of nations, sharp-eared listeners could pick up strains of various video games, including Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog and Dragon Quest.

Ghana, looking sharp.(Hannah McKay / Getty Images)
Ghana, looking sharp.(Hannah McKay / Getty Images)

The outfits. The two-hour-long parade of nations is always a fashion showpiece, and even with the pandemic, this year's collection brought the heat ... and the cringe. Here's our Liz Roscher with her takes on the highs and lows of this year's athlete fashions:

Best:
Aruba, colorful blazers for the men and comfy, colorful caftans for the women
Angola, ruffly party dresses
Uganda’s colorful suits and dresses
British Virgin Islands, colorful stylish dresses and appliquéd white blazers, very fresh and fun
Ghana, crisp white with kente down the middle, really fresh
Cook Islands, two different types of outfits for flag bearers and regular athletes
Kenya, Gingham and capes
Botswana, blue off the shoulder dresses with a peplum and white stripe detail

Italy. Ouch. (Hannah McKay / Getty Images)
Italy. Ouch. (Hannah McKay / Getty Images)

Worst:
Italy, it looks like the Italian flag ate a Pac Man and then threw up all over their outfits
Ukraine, 90s skateboarder outfits
Grenada, retina-searing neon
Costa Rica, going on the most boring safari ever
ROC, women’s outfits are strange: track pants, button-less blazer, and a wide leather belt?
Georgia, what the hellllll
Switzerland, ugly, brown, unflattering
Belgium, the ugliest print of all time
Luxembourg, women wearing long metallic windbreakers and drab green ankle length TULLE skirts!?!?

Worst Team Outfits
Worst Team Outfits

The speeches. Yes, the IOC dignitaries have their moment in the sun, speaking of inclusiveness and dignity and such. But after the highs of the parade of nations, it all too often comes off as ponderous and interminable. More fireworks, less philosophizing.

The protests. Outside the walls of National Stadium, protests reverberated in the streets. Yet there was little mention of this during the broadcast, which largely focused on the positives of the Games. 

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The silence. With only about 10,000 people in attendance at the 60,000-seat stadium, there was a tangible lack of atmosphere in the air. Athletes walking in appeared a bit struck by the emptiness of the vast stadium, a sad but necessary decree from Japan's leaders. The gymnastics and swimming contingents, among others, weren't in attendance, and their absence was noticeable.

The remembrance. For the first time, the International Olympic Committee publicly honored the members of the 1972 Israeli Olympic team killed by terrorists during the Games. It was unconscionable to leave them unrecognized for this long, but public pressure at last righted this wrong. 

All in all, a powerful, moving start to the Olympics, with elements that will be replayed long into the future. 

TOPSHOT - Drones fly to form an image of the Earth in the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Drones fly to form an image of the Earth in the sky over the Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Best of Tokyo Opening Ceremony slideshow embed
Best of Tokyo Opening Ceremony slideshow embed

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com.

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