5 to Watch

Everything You Need to Know About Friday's Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony

Although no American men qualified in sculls, the American women could make it to the medal podium in both the single and double sculls, including three from Massachusetts.

LAS VEGAS, NV -  JULY 17: Sue Bird #6 of the USA Basketball Womens National Team smiles during USAB Womens National Team practice at the Mendenhall Center on July 17, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

With the Opening Ceremony set to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET on Friday (on NBC and streaming live), there is already plenty of action underway at the Tokyo Olympics.

Competition began Thursday night for rowers in the sculling events, where three women from Massachusetts competed.

Already this week, 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 the final pre-Opening Ceremony sculling event.

Rowing kicks off Thursday night at 7:30 ET

Rowers began competing Thursday in the sculling events.

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, a Newton native who the silver medalist in single sculls in Rio, and Kristi Wagner, of Weston, teamed up for double sculls several months ago without having ever rowed together before. The duo turned in a time of 6:55.65 in a second-place finish for their preliminary heat, advancing to the semi-finals. The pair are coached by Stone's father, Gregg, who has been coaching his daughter since 2008.

Newton’s Gevvie Stone and Weston’s Kristi Wagner, two Mass. rowers, will hit the water at the Tokyo Olympics under the watchful eye of their coach — who is the father of one of the athletes.

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, a Weston native. 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.

Find full TV listings for rowing and all other Olympic sports in the full TV schedule.

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.

Who will light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony?

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 at 6:55 a.m. ET or on digital platforms right here. You can also watch it delayed on NBC during prime time at 7:30 p.m. ET.

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.

Who will be the flag bearer for Team USA?

Women's basketball star Sue Bird and baseball player Eddy Alvarez were chosen to be the flag bearers for Team USA. It was announced on Wednesday’s episode of 'TODAY' that the four-time WNBA champion and MLB infielder would lead the United States in the Parade of Nations.

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. 

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

Team USA in the Parade of Nations

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. 

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.

Team USA will wear Ralph Lauren at the Opening Ceremony

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.”

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.
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