NOW: The parade of athletes is underway at the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony πŸ’₯πŸ’₯πŸ’₯

The floor of Olympic Stadium is lit before the start of the opening ceremony July 23, in Tokyo. David J. Phillip/AP

It’s Friday, July 23. The Olympic Games are about to formally begin, and here’s what you need to know.

It’s go time: A year after their scheduled start date, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (they kept the 2020 branding) are set to begin. The Games officially kick off Friday night Japan time with the opening ceremony, putting an end to months of speculation over whether the event would even able to go ahead as Japan struggles to rein in Covid-19.

Thursday saw Tokyo record 1,979 new Covid cases β€” the highest daily number since Jan. 15. As of Thursday, there have been 110 positive cases linked to the Games as those arriving in Tokyo undergo a rigorous testing program.

A handful of athletes have seen their dreams dashed after testing positive for the virus, forcing them to withdraw from competition. Most competitors spend years, if not most of their lives, training to reach the Olympics β€” and about 70% of them only get the opportunity once, according to Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee.

The dignitaries arrive: French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country will host the next Summer Games in 2024, has arrived in Tokyo for the opening ceremony. First Lady Jill Biden is also traveling to the Japanese capital. She’s scheduled to meet with Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace ahead of the opening ceremony.

However, the number of dignitaries in attendance will be much smaller than previous years. Organizers said only 950 VIPs will be present in a stadium that can seat nearly 70,000 people. While athletes normally enter the stadium to a crowd of roaring fans, they’ll instead be greeted by mostly empty seats β€” a stark, visual reminder of the pandemic’s toll.

What’s on schedule: Friday in Japan is pretty light. There are no medals up for grabs, but archery and rowing have preliminary competitions. The Games kick off in earnest Saturday morning Japan time, which is Friday night on the US East Coast. Scroll down to check out what events are coming Friday US time.

The Games’ full schedule can be found here.

NOW: The parade of athletes is underway at the Tokyo 2020 Opening Ceremony

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