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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.

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?)

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.

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.