THEN AND NOW: Photos show the stark differences between past Olympics and the fan-free Tokyo opening ceremony

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THEN AND NOW: Photos show the stark differences between past Olympics and the fan-free Tokyo opening ceremony
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Rio Olympics opening ceremony vs Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics (right) looked starkly different from those of past games, like the Rio Olympics opening ceremony (left). GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images; Maja Hitij/Getty Images
  • After a year-long delay, the Tokyo Olympics are finally underway.

  • The games officially commenced with Friday's opening ceremony at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, but fans were not invited to attend the festivities due to COVID-19 restrictions in Japan.

  • Though the Tokyo festivities were a sight to behold nonetheless, photos of past Olympics' opening ceremonies show just how stark the differences were.

  • Insider worked with Getty Images to compare shots from their photographers in Tokyo to ones from past games, from the most recent in Rio de Janeiro, London, and Beijing to those dating all the way back to 1912.

  • Mike Heiman - Getty Images' VP of Editorial Operations who is currently in Tokyo - spoke to Insider about the differences between these games and those of the past.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

A foreword from Getty Images' VP of Editorial Operations Mike Heiman:

"As my seventh Olympic Games with Getty Images, my first being Beijing 2008, the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 felt like a long time coming after them being postponed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. For months after postponement, there was a ton of doubts that they might not happen at all in 2021, but it was exciting to finally make it to Tokyo and be at the opening ceremony.

Fireworks are displayed during the opening ceremony.
A photo from Getty Images photographer Carl Court shows fireworks erupting during the opening ceremony. Carl Court/Getty Images

The Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee put on an opening ceremony that was incredibly impressive, respectful, and fitting under the shadow of a global pandemic. All opening ceremonies typically follow a similar theme - promoting the culture of the host country, celebrating the athletes that are in attendance, and showcasing how the power of sport unites us all. While last night's celebration was a different and more reserved spectacle than past ceremonies, these themes still rang through.

This year's ceremonies were a series of moments and elements that were truly very moving and inspiring and especially uniting for a record global TV audience. And despite there being less athletes in attendance, the pride and honor for their countries during the parade of nations was still so vibrant and infectious. You couldn't help but feel proud and excited for the athletes and for the Olympic Games to officially start, and the imagery we produced was a testament to that.

A drone display is seen over the top of the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
A photo captured by Getty Images' Matthias Hangst shows s drone display over the top of the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Getty Images' set up for these ceremonies were also a little different than usual. We typically have a team of about 16 photographers supported by a team of 8 editors and technicians on the ground at the ceremony. However, this year, due to social distance guidelines, we had a team of 11 photographers supported by four additional people onsite. Luckily, with our some of our proprietary softwares and the press plus network that we have implemented with local telco company NTT for these Olympic Games, our team was able to support and live edit the opening ceremonies with 40 remote editors and technicians from various locations around the world.

When it was all done, our photographers captured over 34,000 photos from the event. Although different, these opening ceremonies were a special moment in history to witness and something I will never forget. The roaring excitement of fans and look of a full stadium was definitely a miss, but the lights, colors, costume, music, fireworks and of course, lighting of the Olympic cauldron by the incredible Naomi Osaka was a spectacular kick off to an epic two weeks of sport and action."

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron.
Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic flame. Ni Minzhe/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

Now check out photos that capture the differences between the Tokyo Olympics and Olympics Games of the past.

THEN: Stockholm 1912 - Swedish gymnasts enter the old stadium in Stockholm in the 1912 Olympic Games and march past the Swedish Royal family.

Swedish gymnasts enter the old stadium in Stockhom in the 1912 Olympic Games.
Schirner/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Members of Team Japan enter the empty Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Members of Team Japan enter Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics.
Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

THEN: Antwerp 1920 - Teams assemble in front of a crowd for the opening ceremony of the 1920 Summer Olympics.

Teams assemble for the opening ceremony of the 1920 Summer Olympics.
FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - A drone display is seen over the top of the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

A drone display is seen over the top of the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
A photo captured by Getty Images' Matthias Hangst shows s drone display over the top of the stadium during the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony. Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

THEN: Los Angeles 1932 - Almost 2,000 athletes enter the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles to join in the ceremonies opening the 10th Olympiad.

Los Angeles 1932: Almost 2,000 athletes enter the Olympic Stadium in Los Angeles to join in the ceremonies opening the tenth Olympiad.
Bettmann / Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Team China walks through a fan-less Olympic Stadium at the opening ceremony in Japan.

Team China at the opening ceremony.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

THEN: London 1948 - Athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium.

Athletes parading during the opening ceremony of the1948 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium.
Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - A flag donning the Olympic rings is carried towards the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony in Tokyo.

The Olympic cauldron glows during the opening ceremony.
Dylan Martinez - Pool/Getty Images

THEN: Melbourne 1956 - Ron Clarke of Australia lights the Olympic Torch at a packed opening ceremony for the 17th Olympic Games.

Ron Clarke of Australia lights the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 17th Olympic Games held in Melbourne in 1956.
Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Naomi Osaka of Team Japan lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony at the empty Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

Naomi Osaka of Team Japan lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony at an empty Olympic Stadium.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

THEN: Tokyo 1964 - Yoshinori Sakai, a student born in Hiroshima on the day the first atomic bomb devastated the city, carries the torch to light the cauldron during the opening ceremony for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

General view as Yoshinori Sakai, a student born in Hiroshima on the day the first atomic bomb devastated the city, carries the torch up the stairs to light the cauldron during the opening ceremony for the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games.
Keystone/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Naomi Osaka of Team Japan carries the Olympic torch towards the cauldron without anyone else in sight.

Naomi Osaka of Team Japan carries the Olympic torch towards the cauldron without anyone else in sight.
An Lingjun/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

THEN: Mexico City 1968 - Mexico's Norma Enriqueta Basilio, the first woman in the history of the modern Olympic Games to light the Olympic Fire, runs up the ninety steps with the Olympic Torch.

Mexico's Norma Enriqueta Basilio, the first woman in the history of the modern Olympic Games to light the Olympic Fire, runs up the ninety steps with the Olympic Torch during the opening ceremony.
Bettmann/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Tennis star Naomi Osaka carries the Olympic torch during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games opening ceremony at a fan-less Olympic Stadium.

Tennis player Naomi Osaka carries the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at a fan-less Olympic Stadium.
Bai Yu/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

THEN: Munich 1972 - Team USA marches in front of fans in the Parade of Nations at the 1972 Summer Olympics in West Germany.

Team USA marches in the opening ceremony Parade of Nations at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany.
Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Team USA marches sans fans in the Parade of Nations at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

Team USA at the Olympics opening ceremony.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

THEN: Moscow 1980 - Spectators take in the opening ceremony of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Russia.

Opening ceremony of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow.
Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - VIP officials - some of the only people in attendance at Olympic Stadium outside of athletes and performers - look on during the opening ceremony in Tokyo, Japan.

VIP officials look on during the opening ceremony.
Leon Neal/Getty Images

THEN: Los Angeles 1984 - Fans pack into Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum for the 1984 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.

The opening ceremony at Los Angeles' Memorial Coliseum for the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Ken Regan /Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Athletes and other opening ceremony participants social distance as the Olympic torch is lit.

General view inside the stadium as Naomi Osaka of Team Japan lights the Olympic cauldron with the Olympic torch during the opening ceremony.
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

THEN: Seoul 1988 - Olympic flag bearers march in the Seoul 1988 Olympics opening ceremony.

Olympic flag bearers march in the Seoul 1988 Olympics opening ceremony.
Gray Mortimore / Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - The Olympic flag is raised in front of the empty Olympic stadium during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Olympic flag is raised in front of the Olympic cauldron during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium.
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

THEN: Barcelona 1992 - A giant Olympic flag covers the pitch during the opening ceremony of the XXVth summer Olympic Games at Montjuic stadium.

A giant Olympic flag covers the pitch during the opening ceremony of the XXVth summer Olympic Games in Barcelona.
MICHEL GANGNE/AFP via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Athletes gather during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Athletes gather during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

THEN: Atlanta 1996 - Flags from around the world fly as fans cheer at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games at Atlanta's Olympic Stadium.

Opening ceremony of the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Jean-Yves Ruszniewski/TempSport/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - The Olympic flag is raised alongside the Japanese flag in front of empty stands at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The Olympic flag is raised alongside the Japanese flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

THEN: Sydney 2000 - Fans look on as Cathy Freeman lights the Olympic cauldron at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Cathy Freeman holds the Olympic torch at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron in an empty Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, Japan.

Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic cauldron.
Naomi Osaka lights the Olympic flame. Ni Minzhe/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

THEN: Athens 2004 - Teams enter the stadium for the parade of nations in the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

Teams enter the stadium for the parade of nations in the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games.
Ian Waldie/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Teams social distance at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics.

Fireworks explode during the opening ceremony.
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

THEN: Beijing 2008 - Drummers perform during the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics at the National Stadium in Beijing, China.

Drummers perform during the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics at the National Stadium in Beijing, China.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - Performers dance during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Performers dance during the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

THEN: London 2012 - Sir Chris Hoy of the Great Britain Olympic cycling team carries his country's flag during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Sir Chris Hoy of the Great Britain Olympic cycling team carries his country's flag during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - A small delegation of Team Great Britain athletes participate in the parade of nations while wearing masks.

Team Great Britain marches in the parade of nations at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.
Lu Lin/CHINASPORTS/VCG via Getty Images

THEN: Rio de Janeiro 2016 - A crowd swells around teams as they process in the parade of nations at the Rio Summer Olympics.

The opening ceremony at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
David Rogers/Getty Images

NOW: Tokyo 2020 - A smattering of people maintain their social distance as teams walk in the parade of nations at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium.

Tokyo Olympics parade of nations.
Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Now check out the most brilliant photos from the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics:

Olympic rings and fireworks outside of Tokyo Stadium.
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The most stunning photos from the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

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