The delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games finally kicked off on Friday with the traditionally over-the-top opening ceremony. And as SNL’s Stefon would say, it had everything: Tennis phenom Naomi Osaka lighting the Olympic cauldron to begin the Games, John Legend and Keith Urban joining a group of international singers to perform their own rendition of “Imagine,” the hot, shirtless Tongan flagbearer, treadmills, etc. And much like one of Stefon’s “hottest clubs,” the opening ceremony was also arguably one of the most bizarre and uncomfortable things to watch — maybe ever.
The ceremony started at 7:30 a.m. EST, and for those of us watching live, it was something akin to an early morning psychedelic trip that no one asked for. First, there were no spectators in the audience due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And the isolation of the past year was, um, commemorated, by a video showing the athletes working out in their homes, followed by a performance in the stadium of a solo athlete running on a treadmill (see photo above). Then, instead of waving at what would have been 68,000 spectators, Olympians gave half-hearted waves to the 10,000 media workers, Olympics staffers, and a few key dignitaries, including First Lady Jill Biden.
What followed was a series of odd representations of each sport played in this year’s Olympic Games. Sport “pictograms” were performed with costumed dancers before John Legend, Keith Urban, and a slew of other international singers performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” — far too reminiscent of the now-infamous viral celebrity-filled performance that was released at the height of pandemic lockdown.
But perhaps most disturbing — and yet the most accurate representation of where we as a global community are in this moment — was the moment of remembrance for those who lost their lives to COVID-19. While at least 100 U.S. Olympians who are attending the games unvaccinated watched live, viewers at home were shown a montage that seemed to suggest we had collectively “defeated” COVID, just as a wave of new mutations continues to ravage different countries around the world.
Needless to say, much like everything else surrounding this year’s Olympic games, it was cute! It was cringe! It was Olympics 2020! And the people have reacted:
— Yeahhh the girls (@yeahthegs) July 23, 2021
— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) July 23, 2021
they are playing final fantasy and dragon quest music at the olympics opening ceremony I CANT BELIEVE IT pic.twitter.com/XABsbHpWOA
— Lulu🌈🎏 (@luulubuu) July 23, 2021
Why do the Team USA outfits look like they’d report you to HR for cursing pic.twitter.com/ZjsBKcFAGb
— Molly Mulshine (@mollymulshine) July 23, 2021
Treadmill running person going nowhere for a really long time at the Opening Ceremony is basically a perfect metaphor for 2020-21. #OpeningCeremony
— Stop It I Love It (@StopItILoveIt) July 23, 2021
This whole opening ceremony should’ve just been animated food that looks delicious
— Nooruddean (@BeardedGenius) July 23, 2021
*turns on Olympic ceremony*
Fifteen minutes of a star Japanese boxer jogging on a treadmill in an empty stadium, her story of triumph against odds… then an announcement that she won’t get to actually compete because her qualification tournament was cancelled due to Covid.
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) July 23, 2021
If you want to witness the madness yourself, you can tune in to NBC for a re-airing of the ceremony at 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday. Then again, you can always treat the Olympics the way the International Olympic Committee is treating the COVID-19 pandemic: pretend like it’s not happening.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?