Nearly 700 of the best athletes in the United States - including three with strong connections to the Seacoast - will compete against the world during the Summer Olympics in Tokyo from July 23 through August 8.

The games will be like no other thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday's opening ceremonies will give fans the first indication of the virus's impact when athletes march into a nearly empty stadium during what is usually a vibrant, exciting ceremony.

Japanese network Asahi reported only 950 VIPs will be present, including First Lady Jill Biden and Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

The athletes themselves are under tight restrictions which limit their interactions with each other.

"After nearly five years of planning, we found ourselves suddenly having to rethink everything. This was the biggest challenge," Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee executive producer of ceremonies Takayuki Hioki told CNN.

The four-hour opening ceremony will air live on NBC starting Friday morning at 6:55 a.m.

The games are airing live across NBC's many broadcast platforms including USA and the Peacock streaming service. Because Japan is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time many events will air in the middle of the night here.

The Seacoast is represented by three athletes:

Jessica Parratto

Jessica Parratto (Team USA)

EVENT: Women’s 10-meter platform synchronized diving
FIRST COMPETITION: Tuesday, July 27, 2 a.m. (NBCS)

Dover's Jessica Parratto is a member of the U.S. swim team and dives the 10-meter. She attended Indiana University. The 27-year-old finished 10th in the individual 10-meter and 7th in synchronized 10-meter at the 2016 games in Rio.

She and her family are originally from Indianapolis and moved to Dover in 2009 due to limited facilities, according to her Team USA bio.

Her father Mike coached Olympic swimmer and Dover resident Jenny Thompson who she is close to like a sister.

Elle Purrier St. Pierre

Elle Purrier St. Pierre crosses the finish line to win the Women's 1500 Meters Final during day four of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

EVENT: 1,500-meter women's track and field
FIRST COMPETITION: Sunday, August 1, 8:35 p.m. (USA)

Former UNH track star Elle Purrier St. Pierre will run the 1,500-meter as a member of the track and field team in her first trip to the Olympics.

The 26-year-old Vermont native who grew up on a dairy farm graduated from UNH in 2018. During commencement ceremonies, then-UNH President Mark Huddleston asked her to run up to the stage and told the crowd she was the most decorated athlete in UNH history.

Purrier married Jamie St. Pierre in 2020.

Rachel Schneider

Rachel Schneider reacts after placing third in the Women's 5000 Meter Final (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

EVENT: 5,000-meter women's track and field
FIRST COMPETITION: Friday, July 30, 6 a.m. (Peacock)

Sanford's Rachel Schneider ran for St. Thomas Aquinas in Dover and is a member of the women's track and field team. She will run the 5,000-meter in her first Olympic appearance.

Schneider. who graduated from Georgetown University, calls Flagstaff, Ariz., home now, is a Big Brother Big Sister mentor who often trains with her three dogs, according to her Team USA bio.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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