5 to Watch: Looking Toward the Opening Ceremony and Competition Has Already Begun

Friday all eyes will be on Tokyo for the opening ceremony, but competition has already begun in soccer, softball and rowing

With the Opening Ceremony set to begin at 5:55 a.m. CT on Friday morning (on NBC 5 and streaming live), there is already plenty of action underway at the Tokyo Olympics. The U.S. women’s softball team won their opening match against Italy, while the women’s soccer team was stunned by Sweden, suffering a 3-0 defeat and snapping a 44-match unbeaten streak

The Opening Ceremony will be televised and streamed live from Tokyo early Friday morning and replayed during primetime Friday evening. Here is what you need to watch in Tokyo during the Opening Ceremony, plus one final pre-Opening Ceremony event.

Who will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony?

Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch
Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool Photo via AP, File
The celebration cauldron is seen lit on the first day of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay in Naraha, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan.

The Japanese Olympic Committee hasn’t announced who will light the cauldron, but there are some great candidates. 

Japan could give the honor to golfer Hideki Matsuyama, who became the first Japanese man to win a golf major when he won the Masters in April. 

Or they could go a more symbolic route, finding a current or former Olympian who recovered from COVID-19. At the 1964 Tokyo Games, runner Yoshinori Sakai had the honor. He was born on August 6, 1945, the day that the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Watch live on NBC 5 at 5:55 a.m. CT or on digital platforms. Watch delayed on NBC 5 during prime time at 6:30 p.m. CT.

Team USA in the Parade of Nations

Team USA Parade of Nations
AP Photo/Eric Gay
The United States team parade during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. This year's events are set to start on July 23.

More than 600 American athletes are expected to be in Tokyo and are ready to compete at the highest level. 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.

At the Opening Ceremony, nations will march in 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. 

Who will be the flag bearer for Team USA?

Sue Bird, Eddie Alvarez
USA Women’s Basketball star Sue Bird and USA Baseball infielder Eddy Alvarez have been selected as flag bearers for Team USA at the opening ceremonies in Tokyo.

Women's basketball star Sue Bird and Baseball player Eddy Alvarez were chosen to be the flag bearers for Team USA.

Bird is no stranger to international competition. She has four Olympic gold medals and has won an additional four gold medals at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup. 

Alvarez will look to add to his Olympic medal collection as well. Although he does not have Olympic baseball experience, Alvarez won silver in short track speed skating during the Sochi Olympics. He played for the Miami Marlins in 2020, and is in their minor league system this season. 

Team USA will wear Ralph Lauren at the Opening Ceremony

Team USA modeling the Ralph Lauren outfits
Courtesy of Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren Team USA’s opening ceremony parade uniform and debuted a self-regulating temperature cooling device that will be worn by Team USA’s flag bearer during the Olympic and Paralympic Opening Ceremony Parades.

Ralph Lauren, which has been dressing Team USA since 2008, unveiled this year’s Opening Ceremony uniforms last week. The outfits for Tokyo fit the designer’s preppy, Americana aesthetic perfectly.

The United States Olympic team will don traditional navy blazers, complete with a Team USA patch on one breast and Ralph Lauren’s famous Polo Pony logo on the other.

As shown on beach volleyball players, Alix Klineman and April Ross, below, Team USA will pair the blazers with a Breton striped shirt, a neck scarf printed with stars and stripes, as well as a belt that was made from recycled plastic bottles. Ralph Lauren also designed solid navy masks with a tiny American flag for the United States Olympic athletes to wear.

The flag bearer’s jacket also has a sustainable feature: RL COOLING technology, a personal air conditioning system built into the garment.

“Through the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Ralph Lauren celebrates America’s pioneering spirit and tradition, while embracing modernity and innovation — and it is with that ethos in mind that we approached the development of the RL COOLING technology,” said David Lauren, Ralph Lauren Corporation’s chief brand and innovation officer.

“Recognizing Tokyo’s summer heat, we sought to develop a solution for Team USA that fuses fashion and function — allowing them to look and feel their best on one of the world’s biggest stages.”


Training for rowing during the Olympics
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
An Italian sculler trains at the Sea Forest Waterway ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Sunday, July 18, 2021, in Tokyo.

Competition began Thursday night ET for rowers in the sculling events, Friday morning in Tokyo.

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

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