Tokyo 2020: the best photos, videos and reactions from the Olympics opening ceremony

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Hollie Richardson
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Tokyo 2020

From an incredible piano player to a topless Tongan, here are seven of the most memorable moments from the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony.

The Olympic games have finally started, despite a year-long delay, a number of controversial issues and an ongoing pandemic. We will at last get to see the likes of Dina Asher Smith, Jade Jones and Katarina Johnson-Thompson compete to bring home gold for Team GB and join the best British female athletes of all time

Tokyo 2020 kicked off with the opening ceremony last night (23 July), but, unsurprisingly, it was a very different affair to previous ceremonies. Held in Japan National Stadium, which has capacity for 68,000 spectators, this was the first time that the ceremony didn’t have any spectators in attendance. 

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While the mood was indeed somber (Tokyo has just reported its highest number of Covid cases in six months), people watching the event on their TVs still enjoyed a sense of hope, marvel and celebration. Let’s look at the best moments from the opening ceremony that, for a while, fans weren’t even sure would ever take place….

A nurse opens the ceremony

Arisa Tsubata
Tokyo 2020: Arisa Tsubata kicks off the opening ceremony.

Japanese boxer and nurse Arisa Tsubata, who worked as a healthcare worker during the pandemic, opened the ceremony by running on a treadmill throughout the first section. She was one of many health workers who joined the opening ceremony. She quickly gained a lot of new fans on Twitter.

“OK I am obsessed with Arisa Tsubata, the Japanese boxer starring in the Olympics opening ceremonies who is also a NURSE,” one person tweeted.

The incredible history behind the rings

Olympic rings
Tokyo 2020: the rings are made from trees planted in 1964.

The wooden Olympic rings were carved from trees planted by athletes in 1964, which was when the iconic games were last held in Japan.

Sharing more details behind the story, a journalist tweeted: “So when Japan held the Olympics in 1964, athletes brought seeds to the opening ceremony to plant commemorative trees. And wood from those trees was used to make the 2021 Olympic rings. Stop it.”

Hiromi Uehara gave an Olympic-worthy piano performance

Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara
Tokyo 2020: Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara gave a great performance.

Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara was on fire with her performance during the ceremony. It’s little surprise that clips quickly went viral.

Team GB arrive

Team GB arrive
Tokyo 2020: Team GB arrive.

Hannah Mills and Mohamed Sbihi were the two athletes chosen to bear the flag and represent the biggest GB Team in history to enter the games (376 athletes, and a further 22 reserve athletes). It was a proud moment.      

The Tonga flag bearer

Pita Taufatofua at the Olympics
Tokyo 2020: Pita Taufatofua bears the Tonga flag.

This is the third time that skiier Pita Taufatofua has marched into an Olympic stadium with the Tongan flag. We can’t think why they keep asking him to do it topless? The internet had thoughts too.

“Yes we will be supporting Tonga at the Olympics this year, no further questions please,” declared one Twitter user.

Naomi Osaka lit the flame

Tennis champion Naomi Osaka had the biggest role of the night: lighting the Olympic flame. “Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honour I will ever have in my life,” she wrote on Twitter afterwards. “I have no words to describe the feelings I have right now but I do know I am currently filled with gratefulness and thankfulness. Love you guys, thank you.”

And what is an Olympic ceremony without fireworks?

Tokyo 2020 fireworks
Tokyo 2020: fireworks ended the opening ceremony.

The ceremony ended in true Olympics style: with lots of colourful fireworks lighting up the sky. Let the games begin…

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…