San Diego to Tokyo

5 to Watch at the Tokyo Olympics: Opening Ceremony, Parade of Nations, Rowing

NBC 7's list of five highlights to watch at the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, 2021

NBCUniversal Media, LLC

The Tokyo Olympics begin on July 23, 2021. Here’s a list of some highlights to watch on the big day – including a couple with San Diego connections.

1) Tokyo Olympics: Opening Ceremony

The Tokyo Olympics in Japan kick off Friday with the traditional Opening Ceremony at Olympic Stadium. Many familiar faces on Team USA will walk in the ceremony, including athletes with ties to San Diego and the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. You can watch the Opening Ceremony live on NBC 7 and on on the morning of July 23, beginning at 3:55 a.m. PT – the first-ever live morning broadcast of an Olympics Opening Ceremony (Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the East Coast, 16 hours ahead of the West Coast, so it’ll be 8 p.m. in Japan when the Opening Ceremony starts). After the ceremony, NBC will air a special edition of TODAY. NBC’s primetime coverage on July 23 will replay the Opening Ceremony overnight, too.

Here’s where to watch the 2021 Olympic Opening Ceremony on NBC live at 3:55 a.m. PT on July 23, 2021.

2) Opening Ceremony: The Parade of Nations

The Parade of Nations is the centerpiece of the Opening Ceremony.

Olympics fans will note that Greece will go first. This is a tradition at the Opening Ceremony, as Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics. From there, we will see athletes from all over the world take turns in the Olympic spotlight.

You may notice that every year during the Olympic Opening Ceremony the marching order of the parade of nations is slightly different. This is why…

Nations will march in the parade according to alphabetical order in Japanese, following the custom of using the host country’s language to determine the order. But this year’s Parade of Nations will have a few special features as well. 

The United States will be featured at the end of the parade order. Japan will be the parade’s grand finale, and future Olympic host countries will march just before the host nation. France, host of the 2024 Paris Olympics, will precede Japan, and the United States, hosts of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics, will go before France. 

3) Opening Ceremony: The U.S. Flag Bearers and Torch Traditions

Women’s basketball star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez have been chosen as the U.S. flag bearers for the Opening Ceremony. The athletes will lead Team USA out of the tunnel and Bird said it’s an absolute honor she does not take lightly.

This will mark the first time in Olympic history that countries will each include both a male and female athlete carrying the flag for the Opening Ceremony.

USA Basketball star Sue Bird discusses being named a flag bearer for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics. She will share flag bearer duties with USA Baseball player Eddy Alvarez.

So, who is Sue Bird? The 40-year-old, four-time WNBA champion is one of the most decorated women’s basketball players in history. She’s guided Team USA to four Olympic gold medals in women’s basketball and four gold medals at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. Learn more about Bird here.

Alvarez, 31, is an infielder for the Miami Marlins – and he’s also a really good speed skater. So good, that at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, he won a silver medal in short track speed skating. Read all about Alvarez here.

Bird and Alvarez were chosen by their peers to be the U.S. flag bearers in Tokyo.

During the Opening Ceremony, we'll get to see how the cauldron is lit and who will be the final torchbearer -- moments that are traditionally kept a surprise unveiled on the big day.

More than 600 American athletes are expected to be in Tokyo but not all of them will take part in the Parade of Nations, as many events are already underway or will take place the morning after the Opening Ceremony.

In San Diego, we'll be keeping an eye out for any possible Opening Ceremony cameos of Olympians connected to our region like BMX pro racer Alise Willoughby, Santee water polo player Alex Bowen, and rugby stars like Perry Baker and Abby Gustaitis, just to name a few familiar, local faces.

BMX racer Alise Willoughby recounts the physical toll the sport has taken on her body and all the broken bones and scars she’s accumulated on her way to Tokyo.
NBC 7's Steven Luke caught up with an East County Olympian who never had to look far for a mentor.
Skateboarding will be making its Olympic debut in Tokyo this year. Rutledge Wood previews the new Olympic sport alongside Olympian Heimana Reynolds.
This past year, athletes had to virtually reveal their lifelong dream of making the Olympic team had finally come true. Watch as their families react to the news and prove that despite the circumstances, the emotion and excitement are still real.

4) Rowing: The Heats Were On, Get The Results

The Rowing competition began Thursday night PDT for rowers in the sculling events, Friday morning in Tokyo. It was one of the first events at the Tokyo Olympics.

Although no American men qualified in sculling events, the American women could make it to the medal podium.

Keep reading to find out the results.

Kara Kohler, competing in the single, came in first in her heat with a 7:49.71, advancing to the quarterfinals. Gevvie Stone, who was the silver medalist in single sculls in Rio, teamed up with Kristi Wagner in the double sculls. The duo turned in a time of 6:55.65 in a second-place finish for their preliminary heat, advancing to the semi-finals.

In the quadruple sculls event, Ellen Tomek and Meghan O’Leary -- who won doubles together in 2016 -- are joined by newcomers Alie Rusher and Cicely Madden. They failed to qualify for the finals during their first heat, turning in a 6:34.36 and placing fifth. They will go to repechage Saturday. Medal rounds will begin in rowing on July 27.

Gevvie Stone, who was the silver medalist in single sculls in Rio, is teaming up with Kristi Wagner in double sculls. 

The rowing competition on Day 1 of the Tokyo Olympics was preliminary heats. Medals for rowing won’t come until July 27.

The women of Team USA dominated the games in Rio and are expected to do the same in Tokyo. Here’s how, according to Corey Robinson.

5) Archery: Brady Ellison's Fight for Gold

Archery is one of the first events at the Tokyo Games. On July 23, the women’s and men’s individual ranking rounds go down at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field. The first rounds are set for 5:30 p.m. PT and 10:15 p.m. PT and will air on NBC and The men’s round will include top-ranked archer Brady Ellison, who has long trained at the Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. Ellison, 32, has a stack of Olympic medals and a list of championship titles. Tokyo is his fourth Olympics and this time, he’s aiming for his first Olympic gold medal. Read all about Brady Ellison here.

See how Ellison did in the ranking round at the Tokyo Olympics here.

Team USA Archer Brady Ellison thinks archery is a pretty simple sport to explain. But can he do it with Legos?
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