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Friday, April 19, 2024

How to Watch the 2021 Summer Olympics

It’s going to be a weird Summer Olympics. The 2020 Tokyo games are still called the 2020 Tokyo games because they were delayed a year due to the pandemic. And even though the frantic efforts of organizers ensured the Olympics would actually take place this time, officials ultimately barred fans from attending. Then there’s the controversial disqualifications, weird cardboard beds in the Olympic village, and the fact that some athletes have already had to drop out after testing positive for Covid.

In case things weren’t complicated enough, figuring out how to watch the Olympics is a task in and of itself. The first thing to note is that the events will take place in Tokyo, which is 13 hours ahead of US Eastern time, 14 hours ahead of Central time, 15 hours ahead of Mountain time, and 16 hours ahead of Pacific time. Many events will take place during the early morning hours in the US, which means that you might wind up seeing some spoilers. If you’re concerned about that, be prepared to mute notifications and avoid social media. (Or go scorched earth and just kill your notifications altogether.)

The Olympics start this Friday, July 23. (Technically there are some events before the Opening Ceremony, but we’ll get to those in a minute.) The games will run every day for just over two weeks, with the Closing Ceremony held on August 8.

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If you have cable or an over-the-air antenna, you can watch everything live on NBC (yet again the games’ sole US distributor). You can also stream on NBC’s Olympic website or the NBC Sports app, though those will require a paid account to see it all. Cable coverage will be across several NBC channels, including NBC Sports, NBC’s Olympic Channel, CNBC, and the Golf Channel. Coverage in Spanish is on Telemundo and Universo.

If you prefer streaming, one option is NBC’s Peacock streaming service. It requires an account, but there is a free option if you’re just interested in the big highlights. Paid tiers start at $5 a month (with ads) or $10 a month (with fewer ads). You can also watch the games on Hulu’s premium Hulu + Live TV plan. (Another paid service, it’s $65 per month.)

NBC channels are also available on services like Fubo (which you can add on Roku). It also costs $65 per month, but there’s a 7-day free trial for new subscribers. It’s not ideal, but if you remember to cancel on time, that’s a week of the games for free. (Then you can just re-register with a different email address.)

If you have a Roku device, there’s a built-in Olympics dashboard available right from the main screen, labeled “2020 Tokyo Olympics.” Check back there for highlights, or add channels like NBC Sports, Peacock, AT&T TV, and Fubo. (These channels will require existing accounts, though.) Here’s more on how to navigate Roku’s Olympics offerings.

Read on for the specific timing of some of the biggest events. NBC hasn’t yet indicated when it will replay most of the events, so these are all live times. Also, the times are likely to change as the actual games play out. You can find the full schedule of events on the official Olympics website. For all the events in Eastern time, use NBC’s official schedule.

Note: Unless specified otherwise, all times below are listed in Eastern time.

Opening Ceremony

For the first time, NBC will be showing the four-hour-long opening ceremony live on July 23. If you’re based in the US, you’ll have to wake up early-ish to catch it. It starts at 8 pm Tokyo time, which is 7 am Eastern and 4 am Pacific. NBC says its broadcast will start at 6:55 am ET. If you miss it, NBC will rebroadcast the event at 7:30 pm that evening, and again at 12:35 am.


Archery ranking rounds begin on July 22 at 8 pm ET. Mixed team gold medal match is July 24 at 3:45 am. Women’s team gold match is July 25 at 3:40 am. Men’s team final is July 26 at 3:40 am. Individual eliminations take place over the next few days, with the women’s individual final on July 30 at 3:45 am and men’s individual finals at the same time the following day. Here’s the full schedule.


Badminton starts with mixed doubles on July 23 at 8 pm ET. Those finals are July 30 at 2:30 am. Men’s doubles final is July 31 at 5 am. Men’s singles are August 2 at 7 am. Women’s singles final match is August 1 at 7:30 am. Women’s doubles is August 2 at midnight.

Baseball & Softball

Weirdly, the first softball games of the Tokyo Olympics start before the opening ceremony. The first game, between Japan and Australia, is at 8 pm on July 20. The US team plays at 11 pm. The gold medal game is on July 27 at 7 am.

Baseball starts at 11 pm on July 27. The first US baseball game begins on July 30 at 6 am. The final game is August 7 at 6 am.

Here’s the whole schedule.


Men’s basketball starts on July 24 at 9 pm. Quarterfinals start at 9 pm on August 2 and go into the following day. Semifinals are at 12:15 am on August 5. Finals are August 6 at 10:30 pm.

Women’s basketball begins on July 25 at 9 pm. Quarterfinals start August 3 at 9 pm and continue on August 4. Semifinals start August 6 at 12:40 am. The gold medal game is on August 7 at 10:30 pm.

Find the whole schedule here.

Also, a new 3×3 basketball competition starts at 9:15 pm on July 23. Gold medal games start at 7:45 am on July 28.

Boat Stuff

  • Rowing—Men and women’s quadruple sculls finals start July 26 just before 8 pm. Double sculls finals are July 27 just after 8 pm, followed almost immediately by four finals. Pairs finals are July 28 at 8 pm, followed by double sculls. Single sculls and eights finals are July 30 at 8:30 pm.
  • Sailing—Starts July 24 at 11 pm. Windsurfer final races are on July 31 at 1:30 am. One-person dinghy final races are August 1 at the same time. Skiff finals are August 2 at 1:30 am. Mixed multihull final race is August 3 at 2:30 am. Two-person dinghy finals are August 4 also at 1:30 am.
  • Canoe/kayak slalom—Starts July 25 at midnight. Men’s canoe finals are July 26 at 2:45 am. Men’s kayak finals are July 30 at 3 am. Women’s kayak finals are July 27 at 3:15 am. Women’s canoe finals are July 29 at 2:55 am.
  • Canoe/kayak sprint—Starts with women’s kayak singles on July 31 at 8:30 pm. Finals start on August 2 around 10:30 pm. Here’s the full schedule.


  • BMX freestyle—Women’s finals are July 31 at 9:10 pm. Men’s are 10:20 pm.
  • BMX racing—Men’s finals are July 29 at 10:40 pm. Women’s are 11:50 pm.
  • Mountain bike—Men’s cross country race is July 26 at 2 am. Women’s is July 27 at 2 am.
  • Road bike—Men’s road race is July 23 at 10 pm. Women’s is July 25 at midnight. Women’s individual time trial is July 27 at 10:30 pm. Men’s individual time trial is later that night, so technically July 28 at 1 am.
  • Track—Women’s finals start August 2 at 5 pm. Men’s start on August 3 at 4:44 am, for some reason. There are finals every day through August 8. Here’s the full track schedule.


Diving starts with women’s synchronized three meter springboard competition on July 25 at 2 am. There are final events every day through August 7. Here’s the full schedule.


Men’s individual rounds start July 28 at 6:30 pm. The final round is July 31 at 6:30 pm. Women’s rounds start August 3 at 6:30 pm; the final is August 6 at 6:30 pm. Golf schedule.


Men’s gymnastics starts Friday, July 23 at 9:00 pm ET. Qualifying rounds continue through the next day. The men’s team final is at 6:00 am on July 26. The all-around final is July 28 6:15 am.

Women’s qualifiers start on July 24 at 9:00 pm and continue through the 25th. The women’s team final is on July 27 at 6:45 am. The all-around final is July 29 at 6:50 am.

Let’s be real: You’re here for Simone Biles. She’ll be competing in the July 25 qualification, the team final on the 27th, the all-around on July 29, the vault and bars competition on August 1 at 4 am, the floor exercise on August 2 at 4 am, and on the balance beam August 3 starting at 4 am.

The full gymnastics schedule is here.


Men’s handball starts July 23 at 8 pm. Women’s starts on July 26 at 8 pm. Men’s final match is August 7 at 8 am. Women’s final is August 8 at 2 am. Full schedule here.


Men’s field hockey starts with a game between Japan and Australia on July 23 at 8:30 pm ET. Women’s starts the same day at 7:45 am. Men’s gold finals are August 5 at 6 am. Women’s finals are the same time the following day. Here’s the full schedule.


Like any good equestrian extravaganza, the events begin with a horse inspection on July 22 at 8:30 pm ET. The dressage (that’s French for “fancy horse stuff”) grand prix is July 27 at 4 am for teams and July 28 at 4:30 am for individuals. Jumping finals are on August 4 at 6 am for individuals and the same time August 7 for teams. Behold the full horse schedule here.

Martial Arts (and miscellaneous fighting)

  • Fencing—The stabby-stabby starts on July 23 at 8 pm ET. Women’s finals start on July 24 at 7:45 am. Men’s finals start on July 24 at 8:15 am. Full fencing schedule here.
  • Boxing starts July 23 at 10 pm with featherweight preliminaries. Men’s finals begin with the welter final bout on August 3 at 6 am and go through men’s super heavyweight finals on August 8 at 2:15 am. Women’s finals start with the flyweight final on August 7 at 1:15 am and go through the middleweight bout on August 8 at 1:45 am. Here’s all the boxing times.
  • Judo starts July 23 at 10 pm. Finals begin later that same day starting around 4 am. There are dozens of events through July 31, so here’s the full schedule.
  • Karate—There’s a whole bunch of karate too, with finals starting around 6:50 am on August 5.
  • Taekwondo finals start around 8:30 am on July 24 and go through July 27.
  • Wrestling finals go by weight class. Both Greco-Roman freestyle finals start on August 2 after 5 am. Finals continue through August 7, with timing varying depending on how long matches take. Here’s the full schedule.

Soccer (aka Football)

The US women’s soccer team is a force to be reckoned with. Megan Rapinoe, et al. will play their first game against New Zealand on July 24 at 4:30 am. They’ll play again on July 27 at 4 am against Australia. Those are the only scheduled games guaranteed to include the US women’s team, but they are very much the favorites so chances are they’ll make it to more games. The gold medal match is August 5 at 11 pm.

Men’s soccer starts on July 25, with the gold medal game on August 7 at 7:30 am. As for where the US men’s team will be, well

The soccer schedule is here.


Skateboarding is an Olympic sport now! Finally, you can watch the athletes pull some sick kick flips starting at 8 pm on July 24. Women’s finals are at 8 pm on August 3. Men’s finals are 8 pm the next day.


Surfing is also an Olympic sport now! Finally, you can watch surfers carve some heavy corduroy starting at 6 pm on July 24. Medal ceremonies kick off at 7 pm on July 27.


There’s quite a lot of swimming going on, starting at 6 am on July 24. They start handing out medals for competitions after 9:30 pm that same day. The swimming and medal winning continues through August 4. (Swim schedule.)

Synchronized swimming starts August 2 at 6:30 am. Duet routine finals are August 4 at 6:30 am. Team routine finals are August 7, also at 6:30 am.


Tennis kicks off at 10 pm on July 23. The men’s doubles gold match is on July 29 at 11 pm. The women’s singles gold match is July 30 at 11 pm. Starting at 11 pm on July 31 are gold matches for men’s singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.

Oh, and table tennis, aka ping pong, kicks off at 8 pm on July 23. Gold medals go to the women’s team at 6:30 am on August 5. To the men: 6:30 am on August 6.

Tennis link! Table tennis too!

Track & Field

This encompasses a variety of different events, which you can find in great detail here. Track and Field events start at 8 pm ET on July 29, with the men’s steeplechase, high jump, discus throw, and hurdles, and the women’s 100 and 800 meter races. Events are held every day until August 7.

Here are some of the big final times:

  • 100m: Women’s is July 31 at 8:50 am. Men’s is August 1 at 8:50 am.
  • Relay: Mixed relay is July 31 at 8:35 am. Women’s final is August 6 at 9:30 am. Men’s is 9:50 am that same day.
  • Discus: Men’s final is July 31 at 7:15 am. Women’s is August 2 at 7 am.
  • Shot put: Women’s final is July 31 at 9:35 pm. Men’s is August 4 at 10 pm.
  • High jump: Men’s is August 1 at 6:10 am. Women's is August 7 at 6:35 am.
  • Long jump: Men’s is August 1 at 9:20 pm. Women’s is August 2 at 9:50 pm.
  • Triple jump: Women’s is August 1 at 7:20 am. Men’s is August 4 at 10 pm.
  • Hurdles: Women's is August 1 at 10:50 pm. Men’s is August 2 at 11:20 pm.
  • Steeplechase: Men’s is August 2 at 8:15 am. Women’s is August 4 at 7 am.
  • Hammer throw: Women’s is August 3 at 7:35 am. Men’s is August 4 at 7:15 am.
  • Pole vault: Men’s is August 3 at 6:20 am. Women’s is August 5 at 6:20 am.
  • Javelin: Women’s is August 6 at 7:50 am. Men’s is August 7 at 7 pm.


Watch the great swim/bike/run relay starting on July 25, when the men’s team will race at 5:30 pm ET. Women’s is at the same time on July 26. The mixed relay is on July 30 at 6:30 pm.


Men’s volleyball starts on July 23 at 8 pm. The US men’s team plays their preliminary round with Argentina at 6:40 am on July 24. The women’s team plays at 8 pm the same day. The men’s gold match is 8:15 am on August 7. The women’s final game is at 12:30 am August 8.

Beach volleyball starts at 8 pm on July 23. Women’s final match is 9 pm August 5. Men’s is the same time the next day.

Here’s the schedules for beach volleyball and its less sandy sibling.


These are separated based on weight lifted (i.e. how swole the athletes are). Finals start on July 24 at 12:50 am and take place every day through August 4. Here’s the full schedule.

Water Polo

The splishy-splashy antics begin July 24 at 1 am ET with a game between the US and Japan women’s teams. Women’s finals are August 7 at 3:30 am. Men’s finals are August 8 also at 3:30 am.

(Note: Unfortunately, water polo is not played with horses.)

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