When is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics? 2021’s event will be 'sobering'

Different from years past, the Olympics Opening Ceremony is making significant changes in 2021

A boat sails past the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Rings on March 25, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
(Image credit: Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

When is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics? 2021's kickoff event will certainly look different, but the sporty show will go on. 

After being delayed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Summer Olympics 2021 is set to get underway on Friday, July 23rd. However, the usual pomp and circumstance of the international event will be significantly trimmed, and viewers tuning in—as in-person spectators have been banned—can expect a "sobering" starting event. 

Marco Balich, the executive producer of the Olympics opening ceremonies, spoke to Reuters (opens in new tab) and explained how the event will be a scaled-down version of its typical fare. Props, choreography, and a packed stadium are not in the cards in 2021. 

"It will be very meaningful, far from the grandiosity of previous ceremonies," Balich told the news wire. "The moment is now. It is a beautiful effort. A very truthful, honest ceremony, nothing fake."

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Balich said to expect Japanese aesthetics and a near-empty venue, as only a few hundred officials will be scattered about. The Opening Ceremony will take place on Friday, July 23rd at 8pm in Tokyo. There will be 11,000 athletes present from 206 countries. For contrast, in the 2016 games, there were 12,600 athletes in attendance. 

According to TIME (opens in new tab), fans can still expect beloved traditions, including an artistic program, the parade of athletes (though greatly reduced), the lighting of the Olympic flame, and the release of the doves of peace. We'll fill you in on how to watch the atypical tradition—which hopefully will be the only one of its kind, as Balich notes. 



When is the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics 2021?

Catch the event on Friday, July 23rd at 8pm in Tokyo at Japan’s New National Stadium, which is located in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo. Considering Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone in the U.S., viewers can catch it live on NBC at 7am ET (4am PT) or via NBC's livestream (opens in new tab)

If you're concerned about your sleep (and understandably so), Friday night primetime shows will air the ceremony once more beginning at 7:30pm ET, which you can catch on NBC (opens in new tab), according to the network's TV lineup.

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For those based in the UK, live coverage of the Olympics will be on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, and BBC Red Button. Check out the network's day-by-day guide for updates. In Australia, Seven and 7plus  (opens in new tab)are gearing up for Olympics coverage. 

Elsewhere, you can catch the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics using a trusted VPN. A VPN  is a handy piece of software that allows you to browse anonymously, and to change your IP address so your mobile, computer, or laptop thinks it's in another location. Meaning, you can watch your favorite show, film or event—even if you’re away from home.

Our favorite VPN service is ExpressVPN (opens in new tab)—rated the best VPN in the world right now, by our colleagues at TechRadar.

The Opening Ceremony of the Olympics was first held in Athens in 1896, but this is arguably the first time the event has been so drastically altered. Here's hoping for a fun, safe environment for the athletes. Even though the world is so chaotic right now, at least we know we're in this together—and the Olympics is proof. 

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 


The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara. 


Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 


When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)