WASHINGTON — The U.S. women's soccer team and the U.S. gymnastics team are among the athletes who decided not to attend the Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony in-person.
Soccer star Megan Rapinoe made a virtual appearance on NBC's broadcast and explained the team wouldn't be walking in the Parade of Nations because they're instead preparing for their Saturday match against New Zealand.
Rapinoe joined the live broadcast while on a bus back from practice in Japan. She joked with NBC's Mike Tirico that she doesn't know "who schedules practice at this time?"
Rapinoe added that she "couldn't be prouder and happier" of her fiancée Sue Bird, who was selected to serve as flag bearer for Team USA. Rapinoe and Bird of the WNBA Seattle Storm started dating in 2016 after they met at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In October of last year they got engaged.
About 5,700 athletes took part in this year's Parade of Nations, with some skipping it because of early competitions on Saturday. Some also wanted to avoid the risk of extra exposure to the coronavirus too. Friday's parade was different from most in the past because the nations were also being spaced out because of social distancing protocols.
U.S. Soccer later shared a video of Rapinoe and Abby Dahlkemper pretending to walk in the Opening Ceremony from where they are staying.
They aren't the only high-profile Team USA athletes to miss the Opening Ceremony.
The U.S. women's and men's gymnastics team didn't make an appearance and instead held their own private event with Sam Mikulak acting as honorary flagbearer.
Gymnastics star Simone Biles also posted photos on social media showing the women's gymnastics team wearing their Opening Ceremony outfits.
Hundreds of volunteers gathered on the stadium floor to greet athletes as they walked past waving and taking photos on their phones.
Just before the parade, a wooden set of Olympic rings was on display at the center of the stadium to remember the 1964 Tokyo Games. Athletes from around the world were asked to bring seeds that could be planted and become trees.
Wood from 160 pine and spruce trees, along with seeds that came from Canada, Ireland and Northern Europe, were used to build the set of Olympic rings displayed Friday.