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The Tokyo Summer Olympics started off in style!
On Friday, more than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations attended the opening ceremony, which was themed "United by Emotion," at Olympic Stadium in Japan, where Emperor Naruhito formally opened the Games of the XXXII Olympiad.
Most of the arena was left empty, with no spectators allowed other than select organizers, sponsors, dignitaries and press. The games had previously been subject to a year-long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, which was broadcast live on NBC with coverage hosted by Savannah Guthrie and Mike Tirico, marked the network's first-ever live morning broadcast of an opening ceremony.
Here are all the incredible moments from the exciting celebration.
A Fitting Tribute to First Responders
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After a video montage showed athletes from around the world training at home during the pandemic, the live ceremony began with Japanese middleweight boxer Arisa Tsubata running on a treadmill, surrounded by dancers and other athletes training at a distance, but together.
Along with being a national champion boxer, Tsubata is also a nurse who treated COVID-19 patients at a hospital outside of Tokyo through the pandemic.
Minutes later, spectators in-person and at home were asked to observe a moment of silence for "all those we have lost," an announcer shared.
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The opening ceremony stage, designed by Yohei Taneda, is meant to represent the sun and Japan's Mount Fuji.
Throughout the ceremony, and "through these Games, we will acknowledge the way the world came together to face a global threat, while recognising, lauding and demonstrating our sincere gratitude for the immeasurable support and efforts of all those who made Tokyo 2020 possible," organizers said.
Dr. Jill Biden Makes an Appearance
DYLAN MARTINEZ/POOL/AFP via Getty Images First Lady Dr. Jill Biden
A masked Biden, 70, attended the opening ceremony wearing a black-and-white polka dot dress and pearls.
The White House said earlier this month that Biden would represent the U.S. at the games in lieu of President Joe Biden. She will host a watch party at the embassy in Tokyo for the U.S. vs. Mexico softball game and is expected to attend various events in support of American athletes, the White House says.
Tap Dancers Perform a Traditional Work Song
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A unique part of Japan's history and culture was featured heavily in part of the Tokyo Games' opening ceremony.
During the first half of the show, a group of tap dancers dressed as carpenters performed to a traditional work song called the "Kiyari Uta." The song dates back to the country's Edo period, which was between 1603 and 1867, according to event organizers. There are two versions traditionally sung — one during the moving of things such as lumber, and one when "tamping down the earth."
For the segment, the song was performed by members of the Edo Firemanship Preservation Association, a decades-old group that keeps alive firefighting traditions from its ancestors — like the performance of the "Kiyari Uta."
A Parade of Athletes — and Memorable Fashion
The marching order for the parade of nations was determined by each country's Japanese-language names, in katakana order, rather than alphabetically in English. (Greece traditionally marches first.)
Athletes walked to a medley of orchestral versions of Japanese video game music from Final Fantasy, Mario, Sonic, Dragon Quest and Zelda.
Team USA, dressed in navy blazers, printed scarves, shoes and personalized masks by Ralph Lauren, was the third to last country to march because a new rule states that future Olympic host nations will appear at the end. Los Angeles is set to host the 2028 Games and France, which will be second to last to march, will host the 2024 Olympics.
Turning up the heat, for the third straight Olympics, Tongan athlete Pita Taufatofua went for a shirtless, oiled-up look as he carried his country's flag at the opening ceremony. Additionally, rower RII Riilio from the small archipelago country of Vanuatu similarly carried their flag while baring his own oiled-up chest.
Sue Bird and Eddie Alvarez Carry the American Flag
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With their fellow Olympians close behind them, Sue Bird and Eddie Alvarez led Team USA during the opening ceremony for the Summer Games.
The basketball star, 40, and the baseball player, 31, served as flag bearers during the parade of nations for America's turn to walk. "This is absolutely incredible, thank God I have Sue here holding me up because I'm freaking out a little bit, I'm not going to lie," Alvarez told NBC of his big moment. "This is so emotional and I'm feeling the energy of my team right now and it's so incredible guys."
Added Bird, "It's very difficult to describe — the energy is insane. I know our country's in a tough moment right now but right now we all feel unified and it's incredible."
John Legend, Keith Urban and More Perform a Stirring Rendition of 'Imagine' as Drones Light Up the Sky
Leon Neal/Getty Images Drones form the globe at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony
The world came together at the opening ceremony with the help of a few famous performers.
In a surprise, pre-recorded appearance, John Legend, Keith Urban, Angélique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz and the Suginami Junior Chorus performed John Lennon and Yoko Ono's song "Imagine" towards the end of the ceremony.
Singing against a white background, the video performance played as athlete representatives from each country gathered below on the opening ceremony stage.
Meanwhile, above the stadium, event organizers had 1,800 drones form the Tokyo Olympics logo before making the globe.
Performers Acted Out 50 Pictograms Representing Each Olympic Sport
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Golf, football, gymnastics — oh my!
In one of the biggest standout moments, a group of performers acted out each Olympic event based on pictograms, rapidly changing from one sport to the next.
Back in 1964, when Japan last hosted the Olympic Games, event organizers needed a way to overcome the language gap, which is when they created the images that represent each sport, according to Newsweek.
The Games have used the pictograms ever since, and live versions are also "expected to be used in sport presentation videos screened inside the venues, during live coverage of each event, and as an element of other digital ventures," NBC Sports reported.
A Traditional Kabuki Performance with a Side of Piano
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As the ceremony came closer to its end, actor Ichikawa Ebizo put on a traditional Kabuki performance alongside skilled pianist Hiromi.
As he struck a kabuki pose, a piano medley by the Grammy award-winning musician, 42, began to play, with Hiromi appearing on the opposite side of the stage.
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The theatrical art form of kabuki gets its name from the three characters for music, dance, and skill, "accurately embodying its status as a comprehensive art," according to event organizers.
"Throughout its 400-year history, kabuki has grown and changed to reflect the tastes of its audiences, while producing a great variety of works," they add.
Naomi Osaka Proudly Lights the Olympic Cauldron
Natacha Pisarenko/AP/Shutterstock Naomi Osaka
Closing out the hours-long ceremony, Naomi Osaka lit the cauldron with the Olympic torch, which was handed off several times after entering the stadium, including from New York Yankees legend Hideki Matsui and a Japanese doctor and nurse.
Paralympian Tsuchida Wakako then passed the torch on to several local students, who in turn took it to Osaka, 23.
"Undoubtedly the greatest athletic achievement and honor I will ever have in my life," she said 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."
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The big moment came shortly after Osaka took a step back from the spotlight, citing her mental health, and opted to sit out the 2021 French Open and Wimbledon. In her first match in nearly two months, Osaka is set to take on 52nd-ranked Saisai Zheng of China in the opening round of the Olympic tournament.
RELATED VIDEO: Athletes Reveal Their Pre-Competition Rituals Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to run through August 8. A spokesperson for the event previously told Reuters that organizers are "concentrating 100% on delivering successful Games."
The international event, which was originally meant to take place in the summer of 2020 but was rescheduled due to the pandemic, has various safety protocols in place, including a ban on all spectators.
"No spectators will be allowed into any venues in Tokyo during the Olympic Games," the IOC said in a statement July 8, the same day the government of Japan declared a state of emergency in Tokyo as COVID-19 cases surged in the host city.
The blanket spectator ban had been previously agreed upon by the IOC, International Paralympic Committee and Tokyo organizers in June in the event that such a crisis would be declared.
To learn more about Team USA, visit TeamUSA.org. Watch the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23rd and the Tokyo Paralympics beginning August 24th on NBC.