How Olympic Opening Ceremony country order is determined

Japan 2020


TOKYO (NBC) — Each Olympics, the Opening Ceremony is highlighted by the Parade of Nations, when all 200-plus participating countries and their delegations of athletes march through the Olympic stadium to kick off the Games.

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Even in the absence of fans, the same held true Friday in Tokyo as the 2020 Games, postponed to this summer, officially got underway. But many watching the Ceremony at home stateside might have wondered why the order of nations seemed so… random.

With certain traditional exceptions including Greece – the historical home of the ancient Olympic Games – entering first and the host nation picking up the rear, the order of entry for the remaining nations is alphabetical. In English, that means Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

However, English is only used to determine the order when the Games take place in an English-speaking nation. Otherwise, as was the case in Tokyo, the nations are ordered based on their names in the host country’s native language.

For that reason, the country with the honor of directly following Greece and the Olympic Refugee Team into the Tokyo Olympic Stadium was not Afghanistan but, of all nations, Iceland. In Japanese, Iceland is spelled Aisurando, putting it in the top spot alphabetically.

Yemen (in Japanese, Iemen), likely received the biggest boost up the order from its usual spot wedged between Vietnam and Zambia.

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