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How to watch the Olympics in Tokyo

A general view of the Olympic Rings installed on a floating platform with the Rainbow Bridge in the background in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan June 21, 2021. Picture taken with long exposure.  REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

Following a years-long delay due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, plans for the XXXII Olympics are set to begin in Tokyo this week. Despite containing the virus and inside the Olympic village, the event is still ongoing. The sheer amount of action that happens every day through the first week of August means you will have to plan to capture all the events you want to see, especially if you are on the opposite side of the world.

When does the Olympics start?

The official start of the Olympics is the opening ceremony on Friday 23 July at 7 ET, but a few events actually start before that. Softball and women’s soccer competition begins Wednesday (Tokyo time), but the first games were broadcast Tuesday night on the East Coast. Softball, men’s soccer and rowing are scheduled to take place on Thursday with rowing, biking, tennis and women’s water polo scheduled after the opening ceremony on Friday and through Saturday. This weekend is when things really get underway with a slate filled with events from Saturday onwards. The closing ceremony will be broadcast at 8pm on NBC Sunday, August 8th.

This is how you look


For those of us in the US, NBC is the official broadcaster at the Summer Olympics and has been since 2000. Network’s current deal runs through 2032, so you’ll not have to look around to find the games on new channels soon. Due to the scale of events, NBC is correctly not enough to show the entire action, so you can also find live coverage on NBCSN, USA, CNBC, Golf Channel and Olympic Channel – cable or TV streaming subscription required. Following controversy over tape delays during previous Olympics, NBC began broadcasting events live in 2012 despite the massive time differences. During prime time in the United States, the network shows highlights from earlier in the day in addition to any live action.

At least some of the tent events – including opening / closing ceremonies, Women’s Football Finals, Basketball, Track & Field – are broadcast on NBC. Many of the events that take place in the middle of the night Eastern time (which is the bulk of the action) will be shown on the other networks and. NBC Sports announced that Peacock will be home to “major events live each morning”, including gymnastics for women and men, athletics and basketball. The streaming service also has six themed channels along with three highlights during the day Eastern time along with a spotlight series focusing on women in Team USA. Olympic coverage will be free at Peacock with the exception of men’s basketball. You need a $ 4.99 subscription to watch these games.

If you’d rather watch from your computer, phone or tablet, NBC says that “every single event” will be available via NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app. Twitch also serves Olympic content, but not live events. There you will find interviews, highlights and of course competitions. The platform will also host streams and co-streams with Twitch creators during some of the primetime broadcasts.

Olympics 2020 in Tokyo - Training in table tennis - Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, Tokyo, Japan - July 20, 2021 General picture of athletes in training REUTERS / Thomas Peter

Thomas Peter / Reuters

Several services and TV providers offer tools to help you keep up with the whole action. YouTube TV, for example, allows you to choose which events you are interested in, and the app automatically records them to its cloud DVR. Here is to watch swimming in a normal hour and not stop until 6 p.m. 02.00. YouTube TV has also added a medal table for quick reference, and its “Jump To” feature allows you to easily jump around events and specific moments. Cable providers (owned by NBC’s parent company) offer Olympic hubs on their services for easy access. There is a degree of personalization across e.g. Xfinity levels as well as “must-see moments” announcements and playlists of highlights.

To get a complete schedule to find information on all the events you are looking for.

Fans in the UK do not have to struggle with quite the time difference that we in the US have, but they will still see as much of the action as they want. The BBC is the official television station in the UK and it is through early August. BBC One and BBC Two will show live events, while an additional livestream will be available on BBC iPlayer. The network has daily highlights and summary programs both in the morning and in the evening with everything broadcast on BBC One or Two available on-demand via iPlayer. Coverage is also available via BBC Radio 5 Live and The Olympics Daily podcast.

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