Malia and Pita lead Team Tonga during the opening ceremony. Um, yes, some viewers did in fact notice Pita’s shiny torso.


Hannah McKay/Getty Images

Despite the continuing coronavirus, the Tokyo Olympics are still happening, with the traditional opening ceremonies unfolding Friday in Japan, in front of a tiny in-person audience. Though NBC covered the ceremonies live in the early morning on US TV, many viewers will likely watch the rebroadcast, which airs at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and on the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com. Here’s what to look for.

Tonga is back

Just like at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2016 Games in Rio, one team stood out. For the third Olympics in a row, taekwondo athlete Pita Taufatofua of Tonga won the world’s attention by marching shirtless, with an oiled-up chest and torso. (This was perhaps more awe-inspiring when he did it at the 2018 Winter Games, but it’s still attention-grabbing.)

Things were a little different this year: Taufatofua wore a face mask, and he was joined by Malia Paseka, Tonga’s first female Olympian to compete in taekwondo. He congratulated his teammate and fellow flag bearer.

“A special congratulations to our Flag Bearer, Malia Paseka,” Taufatofua tweeted. “She did an amazing job leading the way for more participation of females and youth in sport in Tonga. So proud to walk along side our first ever female taekwondo Olympian!”

A special congratulations to our Flag Bearer, Malia Paseka. She did an amazing job leading the way for more participation of females and youth in sport in Tonga. So proud to walk along side our first ever female taekwondo Olympian!
@olympics @tokyo2020 @worldtaekwondo.pr pic.twitter.com/nb5wyj3ImV

— Pita Taufatofua (@pitaTofua)
July 23, 2021

Fans were drawn to the Tonga team.

“Clearly the best pair of flag bearers in the Parade of Nations,” wrote one Twitter user. “You both are amazing!”

Wrote another, “**BREAKING** TONGA HAS WON THE OLYMPICS. We can all go home now.”

Well done, sir. I was hopeful you would recognize her, and you did not disappoint.

Clearly the best pair of flag bearers in the Parade of Nations. You both are amazing!

— Melissa Burton (@melissburton)
July 23, 2021

***BREAKING*** TONGA HAS WON THE OLYMPICS. We can all go home now. #Olympics pic.twitter.com/6yngzDkDrl

— 🥕BeardedDonkey🥕 (@BeardeddonkeyTv)
July 23, 2021

Rio 2016
PyeongChang 2018
Tokyo 2020

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. #OpeningCeremony #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/wEN8eg08YW

— Olympics (@Olympics)
July 23, 2021

YES Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua and his oiled-up chest are back

“Let’s just take a minute” -Savannah #OpeningCeremony

— Kavitha A. Davidson (@kavithadavidson)
July 23, 2021

Reminder that Pita Taufatofua from Tonga does this to bring attention to climate change.
“People were throwing figures at me about climate change, and I said, ‘All I know is that each year I walk out and I see the seas coming closer,'” pic.twitter.com/woedIJCJAR

— Jillian (@jatoond)
July 23, 2021

Baby oil sponsor this man asap

— ️ (@Millennialteac4)
July 23, 2021

Bruce with the line of the night six hours into this athletes march as Pita Taufatofua comes out swimming in baby oil for a third Games running.
‘He’s the Usain Bolt of flagbearers.” pic.twitter.com/tS7nFgBYzF

— Tony Harper (@toneharper)
July 23, 2021

Yes we will be supporting Tonga at the Olympics this year, no further questions please. pic.twitter.com/IBEI1NjrRP

— ανδρέας ‍ (@MrDrewy)
July 23, 2021

Cool but where do I apply for the job of rubbing him down with baby oil?

— Lili D (@shae90_shae)
July 23, 2021

That there is some pressure to stay in shape

— Oz Feed (@oz_feed)
July 23, 2021

This year, Tonga wasn’t alone in the oiled-up athlete arena. Rower Riilio Rii from Vanuatu also pulled off the shirtless and glossy look.

“Pita, we see you and we raise you,” the official Olympics Twitter account wrote.

Pita, we see you and we raise you ️#VAN | #OpeningCeremony https://t.co/KVmx3DrLg9 pic.twitter.com/fkK0ssxOsl

— Olympics (@Olympics)
July 23, 2021

*Tonga goes viral at #Olympics*

Vanuatu: “hold my flag…” pic.twitter.com/wctfqd7WkZ

— Mr Adam R (@MrAdamR)
July 23, 2021

Vanuatu trying to come for Tonga’s wig…#Olympics #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/xCI7EEvHlM

— YortJansen (@yortjansen)
July 23, 2021

Everybody talking about the guy from Tonga and nobody talking about the guy from Vanuatu! #Olympics #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/s1yCoAtcRl

— Jessi – MMMVnzla (@jessidani86)
July 23, 2021

Soon this will slowly turn into a ceremony opening where countries presents there flag bearers shirtless competition as a sport. Not complaining.

— XX (@XXTXXY0)
July 23, 2021

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Now I know my ABCs?

The countries usually file into the stadium in alphabetical order. But when you watch this year, you may wonder if you even know the alphabet. That’s because it’s in the order used in Japan.

There are also some other variations. Greece, home of the original Olympics, leads the pack, followed by the Refugee Team, athletes from troubled countries who’ve mostly been training in Kenya. The USA marches in near the end, followed by France and then Japan, the host country. (If you want to follow along, Wikipedia has the order.)

Many who were expecting the teams to march in ABC order were thrown.

“This order is bonkers,” wrote one Twitter user. “I clearly need to revisit the alphabet.”

This order is bonkers. I clearly need to revisit the alphabet. #OpeningCeremony

— Joshua Thomas (@Joshua_Thomas97)
July 23, 2021

We’re doing Japanese order – the vowel order is A-I-U-E-O, and then the consonants… K/G, S/Z, T/D, N, H/B, M, Y, R, W… good luck with that! https://t.co/xLkDaTBccb

— Dan Orlowitz (@aishiterutokyo)
July 23, 2021

I was so confused by this!! Could not work out why Iceland and Ireland came out before the Countries beginning with A!

— Chris Denton ️ (@Chrisdenton23)
July 23, 2021

A B C D E F …. USA.

— sportstradingau (@sportstradingau)
July 23, 2021

Olympic pictograms

The various sports were also displayed by performers dressed in white and blue and dubbed “human pictograms,” who re-create the icons used to depict each sport.

We’re obsessed with these human pictograms!

Which sport was your favourite? #Tokyo2020 #OpeningCeremony pic.twitter.com/WgArDJEJGF

— Olympics (@Olympics)
July 23, 2021

Wrote one Twitter user, “This live action Wii sports menu was unexpected but very much appreciated.”

Said another, “Give the pictogram team a GOLD.”

This live action Wii sports menu was unexpected but very much appreciated

— Cat’o’dict Bumbersnatch (@ThatMattThere)
July 23, 2021

Give the pictogram team a GOLD 🥇

Holy shit so cool.#OpeningCeremony #Tokyo2020

— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel)
July 23, 2021

Best thing about the opening ceremony = the pictogram segment! #Tokyo2020 #OlympicGames #pictograms pic.twitter.com/qIDyeqVPQS

— Chilayne Barratt (@chilly_nz)
July 23, 2021

Ok, this is cool! I didn’t know Japan created the sports pictogram/emojis for th Olympics but it makes sense! #OpeningCeremony #Olympics #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/6BRnlqA2pS

— Meredith MacBain (@happylilcoo)
July 23, 2021

This Olympic pictogram performance is amazing. pic.twitter.com/XlG044a1pV

— Rex Sakamoto (@Rexamoto)
July 23, 2021

Love d comical pictogram segment. So japan…hehe pic.twitter.com/uMReJpviLz

— ΩmeeloNSFWพายุจะหยุด‍️ (@ohmeelo)
July 23, 2021

The Pictogram section of the #Tokyo2020 #Olympics #OpeningCeremony was easily my favourite moment! Absolutely genius and instantly iconic! We will look back at that moment for decades to come! pic.twitter.com/dRbEP13Ton

— Mr Adam R (@MrAdamR)
July 23, 2021

The opening ceremonies will be rebroadcast in the US on NBC at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT. The Olympics run through Aug. 8.