Keep an eye out at the end of the line.
Olympic opening ceremonies usually follow similar formats from year to year, but there’s always something new to look forward to. There are performances from stars of the host country, which this year is China, each country’s take on an opening ceremony outfit, and the procession of countries to kick off the games. The 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony is on Feb. 4 in Beijing, and it’ll include the customary procession with athlete flag bearers representing their respective countries. You may have wondered before why the countries seem “out of order” during the Olympic opening ceremony (it’s based on an old tradition), but the lineup is about to be even more confusing, because the order of countries at the 2022 Olympic Opening Ceremony is a nod to the Summer Games.
If you didn’t know, it’s tradition for the countries to march during the opening ceremony to kick off the games in what’s known as the Parade of Nations. The flag bearers march in alphabetical order based on the host country’s language. It’s also tradition for Greece to enter first, as the originators of the games, and for the host country to march last. Though the 2021 Tokyo Olympics saw some changes to the procession order, this year’s ceremony is expected to proceed with business as usual, with the same exception introduced during the 2021 Summer Olympics.
Just like the Tokyo Games, the country set to host the next Winter Olympics, Italy, will enter before China, instead of in between New Zealand and Serbia, which is where it would land alphabetically in Mandarin Chinese. This would be the second Olympics in a row to break the traditional order, after the next two Summer Olympic Games host countries, France and the United States, marched before Japan at the 2021 Olympics. According to the International Olympic Committee spokesperson Mark Adams, the 2021 change was made to “increase the special focus” around future hosts.
There will be a total of 91 countries marching in the opening ceremony. Again, they may seem out of order if you expect them to be alphabetized according to their English spellings — e.g. Australia will enter as the 89th country and Turkey will enter second — you can rest assured they’re in the correct order, per the tradition.
During the opening ceremony on Feb. 4, the Parade of Nations, alphabetized according to how the countries are spelled in Mandarin Chinese, will kick off with Greece (the exception to the rule), followed by Turkey, Malta, Madagascar, and Malaysia.
A full list of the opening ceremony order can be found here.
The theme of this year’s opening ceremony is based on the slogan for the Winter Games, “Together for a shared future.” Unlike the 2021 Olympics, which banned guests from attending the opening ceremony and other events, a limited number of spectators will be allowed to watch the pageantry unfold.
Not only is this second Olympics in a row to break the procession tradition, but it’s also the second Olympics to be held during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director General of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games Chang Yu addressed the safety concerns in a 2021 press release. Chang said, "[Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games] is engaging actively in preparing to present a splendid Beijing 2022 Opening Ceremony in a simple and safe manner, with COVID-19 countermeasures in mind."
Even with measures in place, the pandemic is still affecting the games. On Jan. 19, 2022, NPR reported that NBC would keep announcers stateside due to COVID-19 concerns. NBC host Mike Tirico serves as an exception to the rule, as he’s set to be in Beijing for the first few days of competition, per NPR. So you can keep your eyes our for Tirico and the competing nations when the 2022 Winter Olympics kick off on Feb. 4.