IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Tokyo brings 41 sports to life as pictograms in mesmerizing opening ceremony act

This is one performance we won't stop talking about any time soon.
Tokyo 2020 - Opening Ceremony
This pictogram performance had special meaning for the Olympics' host country. Swen Pf?rtner / picture alliance via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

One breathtaking performance just transcended all language barriers at the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony.

When the capital of Japan first hosted the Olympics in 1964 — the first time the Games were held in Asia — pictograms, or pictures of the sports, were introduced as a way to help bridge the language barrier and easily identify sports and venues. Pictograms have been a mainstay ever since, and they were back in a big way as the world watched Tokyo kick off the delayed 2020 Olympics on Friday.

During a nearly five-minute-long skit, a group of performers became human pictograms and portrayed 50 different disciplines from 41 sports.

The performance began with a plethora of pictogram drawings; then suddenly, one of the pictures jumped off the page and into real life. From there on out, the performers moved at a rapid speed to represent the many sports that are included in the Olympics.

Opening ceremony of Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
The performer became a human pictogram.Sergei Bobylev / TASS via Getty Images

For a while, one performer stole the show and moved nimbly around the stage while pretending to play a variety of sports including rugby, handball, softball and football. The dancer was dressed in a blue mask and outfit and also had a handy sidekick, dressed in white, who was in charge of the props.

The performance required an impressive amount of coordination, and for the most part, everything went off without a hitch, except for one moment when the main performer dropped a badminton racket. (Maybe they'll end up becoming a meme, who knows?)

Tokyo 2020 - Opening Ceremony
We couldn't keep our eyes off this performance.Jan Woitas / picture alliance via Getty Images

The human pictogram represented an impressive array of sports — everything from fencing and hockey to taekwondo and skateboarding — and exuded its own type of athleticism, using its body to skillfully portray each sport.

The actor teamed up with the sidekick for a few sports, including wrestling, and at one point, a somewhat bewildered man stepped up on the stage. Viewers were led to believe he was there to hand off a prop, but the camera then zoomed in on his polo shirt, which had a pictogram of a sailboat to represent sailing.

Opening ceremony of Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan
Teamwork makes the dream work.Sergei Bobylev / TASS via Getty Images

In the grand finale, a trio of performers acted as if they were participating in a modern triathlon, and it was a brilliant way to finish an incredible show.