Watch 1,824 drones light up the sky at Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

Intel Olympics drone light show

It’s on. After a year-long delay, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have finally begun, albeit in the shadow of COVID-19. The opening ceremony today at the $1.5 billion Olympic Stadium was an extravaganza that was both celebratory and subdued. But our favorite part came right toward the end when more than 1,800 drones took to the skies to form a globe over the stadium as artists from five continents sang Imagine.

Drone shows for the win

A great alternative to fireworks, drone light shows can really turn it up a notch with hundreds of light-equipped robots flying around the sky in formation, creating shapes, objects, words, and anything else you could think of.

The spectacular drone display we’re discussing has been programmed by Intel, who first brought drones to the Winter Olympics in 2018.

At the Tokyo Olympics, the drone show came in the backdrop of artists Angélique Kidjo, Alejandro Sanz, John Legend, Keith Urban, and the Suginami Children’s Choir bringing all five continents together during the Opening Ceremony. Hundreds of millions of people watching the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 were simultaneously treated to an emotional performance of Imagine, written by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and an equally powerful drone display that embodied the “United by Emotion” theme.

Just In: New video: Behind the scenes at Tokyo Olympics drone show

Here’s a closer view of the drone show, beginning 1:29:

For social media expert Lance Ulanoff, these drones were just what he needed to “believe” in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics again. Ulanoff notes in a stirring blog post:

The camera shifted to the sky and there they were 1,824 drones, initially flying in what looked like a massive, spherical configuration of blocks. The shapes kept rotating and shifting against each other, and some turned bright blue. As I watched, transfixed, the drones configured into a smoothly rotating Planet Earth. It was breathtaking. All eyes cast skyward as the drone earth spun high over the stadium. I caught my breath and realized I was moved. They were making me believe in the Olympics again.

Olympics’ special connection with ‘Imagine’

Meanwhile, the song that was performed alongside the stunning drone show holds a special significance in the history of the Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) worked with renowned composer Hans Zimmer to take viewers on a musical journey around the world. Starting in the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, the Suginami Children’s Choir, representing Asia, passed the baton on to the artists from Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Oceania, all of whom joined remotely. They were supported with music from TAIKOPROJECT and the Synchron Stage Orchestra and Stage Choir.

Incidentally, this is not the first time we saw Imagine featured at the Olympics — and there’s a reason for that. As IOC President Thomas Bach points out:

This song reflects the values the Olympic Games stand for. It is a call for peace and brotherhood, for unity and solidarity. We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger if we stand together – in solidarity.

Artists, including Stevie Wonder (Atlanta 1996), Peter Gabriel (Turin 2006), the English children’s choir (London 2012), and K-Pop stars Ha Hyun-woo, Jeon In-kwon, Lee Eun-mi, and Ahn Ji-young (PyeongChang 2018), have sung Imagine at Olympic ceremonies. These appearances have laid the foundation for a natural connection between the iconic song and the Olympic Games.

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