Next to the lighting of the Olympic cauldron, nothing may be more exciting at the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics than the Parade of Nations, when all the athletes competing at the Games march behind their respective flags.
Generally, the order each country enters depends on the alphabet of the host nation, in this case, China. The Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee decided it would go with the stroke order of the first character each country's name in Simplified Chinese.
Greece traditionally leads the parade, regardless of its place in the alphabet, because that is where the Olympics originated. The host country enters last.
The International Olympic Committee recently changed the rules to have the hosts of the next Olympics enter right before the host nation. Italy will welcome the world for the Winter Games in 2026, so its athletes will enter before the Chinese.
Representatives from 91 nations are taking part, including about 80% of the U.S. delegation of athletes.
But as Bloomberg notes, the alphabetical order isn't a hard rule. Iran and Israel were separated by Italy during the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony, possibly for political reasons. The IOC reportedly said at the time the change was made "to reflect the appropriate protocols."
The team of Russian athletes will be the official midpoint of the parade. They’re here competing under the Olympic emblem and not the Russian flag, part of the sanctions handed down to that nation’s Olympic committee for doping scandals such as the one that overshadowed the 2014 Sochi Games.
Opening Ceremony Country Order for Winter Olympics
Here is what order the countries will enter the stadium at the Opening Ceremony. NBC will show it live on air and by livestream at 6:30 a.m. EST Friday, due to the 13-hour time difference. It will re-air at 8 p.m. EST on NBC.
- Chinese Taipei
- Hong Kong
- East Timor
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- Saudi Arabia
- Great Britain
- Russian Olympic Committee
- Puerto Rico
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- United States
- American Samoa
- Virgin Islands
- Trinidad and Tobago
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- New Zealand
Why isn't the Parade of Nations in alphabetical order?
That's a trick question. It is, just not alphabetical in English.
According to the International Olympic Committee, the order for the Beijing Olympics Parade of Nations is alphabetical according to the language of the host country.
Since these Olympic Games are being hosted in China, the order is determined by the number of strokes in the Chinese characters. And even then there are some exceptions.