After a year’s delay, athletes and artists took the field at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the XXXII Olympiad Friday night, which served as a tribute to Japan’s rich history and a celebration of the athletes from more than 200 delegations competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

A powerful opening sequence kicked off with middleweight boxer and nurse Arisa Tsubata running alone on a treadmill, replicating Olympic athletes’ solitary training experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. As additional athletes became visible on the field, digital projections around them symbolized the unifying power of sport, showing that they were together despite their physical separation. The theme of cohesion was punctuated further by elastic bands physically connecting the performers in a dazzling visual spectacle.

Dancing performance during the opening sequence of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Getty Images

Modern-day technological showmanship merged with Japanese tradition throughout the Opening Ceremony. Following a stirring rendition of Japanese National Anthem “Kimi Ga Yo” by Japanese singer and songwriter MISIA, the Edo Firemanship Preservation Association performed traditional Japanese work song “Kiyari Uta” as they “constructed” giant wooden Olympic Rings carved from trees planted in Japan by athletes from each of the participating nations in the 1964 Olympic Games. Those games were held at the very site where the current Tokyo Olympic Stadium now stands. The performance also featured some incredible footwork from Japanese tap dancer Kumagai Kazunori.

With the placement of the Olympic Rings in front of the stadium’s Mt. Fuji centerpiece bringing the Opening Ceremony full circle, it was time for the Parade of Nations. In a historic first, each delegation was permitted two flagbearers – one male and one female – to represent gender equity at the Olympic Games. Argentina captured the world’s attention early on with the most boisterous entrance of the night, as athletes showed little restraint despite the physical challenges that await them for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, shirtless sensation Pita Taufatofua of Tonga continued to capture social media’s attention in his third Opening Ceremony appearance, five years after going viral in Rio.