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- On Friday, the world watched as the 2020 Summer Olympics kicked off in Tokyo after a one-year delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
- Although the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to move forward with the Olympic Games this year, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and protocols meant the opening ceremony was performed to a mostly-empty stadium, as spectators are not allowed to attend the Olympics in-person this year.
- Happening amid the ongoing pandemic, the opening ceremony had a more somber tone than it has in years past and included, among other things, a touching, star-studded performance of John Lennon's classic "Imagine," by John Legend, Keith Urban, Angélique Kidjo, and Alejandro Sanz.
On Friday, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (opens in new tab) kicked off with a stunning and emotional opening ceremony.
The 2020 Summer Olympics were delayed a year due to the coronavirus pandemic (opens in new tab) and, although they're going forward this year, the ongoing affects of the pandemic continue to be felt at the Games as they are around the world. The Olympics usually draw huge crowds, but this year's event is more subdued, as spectators aren't allowed to turn out in person to support the athletes. The organizers also planned a more somber opening ceremony than in years past, to respect and reflect on the impact of the pandemic worldwide.
One of the most memorable moments during the ceremony was a virtual performance of John Lennon's classic "Imagine," performed by a group of artists from around the globe. The Junior Chorus in Japan kicked off the performance and were joined virtually by John Legend (opens in new tab), representing the Americas and Keith Urban (opens in new tab), Angélique Kidjo (opens in new tab), and Alejandro Sanz (opens in new tab), representing Oceania, Africa, and Europe, respectively.
Emocionante escuchar a @AlejandroSanz, @johnlegend y @KeithUrban cantando "Imagine" de @johnlennon en el #OpeningCeremony 👏#Tokyo2020 #JuegosOlimpicos2021 #Tokio2020pic.twitter.com/fMujqSG9HdJuly 23, 2021
The song continued to play during another standout moment from the ceremony—as 1,824 drones lit up the sky above the Olympic Stadium to create a revolving, 3D globe:
🚨 Drone appreciation post! 🚨1,824 drones light up the sky above the Olympic Stadium as the #Tokyo2020 emblem seamlessly becomes a revolving globe. 😍🌏#StrongerTogether #OpeningCeremony pic.twitter.com/mcGteqdJ7nJuly 23, 2021
As the official Olympics Twitter (opens in new tab) account pointed out, this was not the first time "Imagine" has been performed at the Olympic games.
"This is not the first time we've seen 'Imagine' featured at an #OpeningCeremony of an Olympic Games," the Olympics captioned a video featuring highlights of the song's role in past Olympics, including London in 2012, PyeongChang in 2018, Torino in 2012, and Atlanta in 1996 . "Take a trip down memory lane..."
This is not the first time we've seen 'Imagine' featured at an #OpeningCeremony of an Olympic Games.Take a trip down memory lane... 🕊️#StrongerTogether #Tokyo2020 pic.twitter.com/MjNKYLG6UMJuly 23, 2021
The Olympics also shared a special message from Kidjo on Twitter, furthering its commitment to the year's theme of Stronger Together:
Imagining a better world. 🌏A message from Beninese singer-songwriter and #OpeningCeremony performer Angélique Kidjo. #Tokyo2020 | #StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/aPe4Z3hxXBJuly 23, 2021
"The world I would like to live in is a world, with respect, love, care, compassion and empathy and constant dialogue," she said in the video message. "For us to talk to one another, even when we disagree, for us to come to consensus for the betterment of human beings. The only thing that matters to me is human lives. Possessions are one thing, but at the center of everything, it's us human beings that have to be more important than anything."
Kayleigh Roberts is a freelance writer and editor with more than 10 years of professional experience. Her byline has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, The Atlantic, Allure, Entertainment Weekly, MTV, Bustle, Refinery29, Girls’ Life Magazine, Just Jared, and Tiger Beat, among other publications. She's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
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