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Tokyo Olympics: Start date, schedule, how to watch, COVID-19 protocol

Looks like the Olympics will go ahead this year no matter what.


Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images

After being postponed in 2020, all signs currently point to the Tokyo Olympics moving ahead in 2021, despite rising COVID-19 cases in Japan’s capital leading to a third state of emergency for the city. Here’s everything you need to know.

When will the Tokyo Olympics take place?

The opening ceremony is scheduled for July 23 and the closing ceremony takes place Aug. 9. 

What’s the schedule?

You can check out the full, updated schedule here. As of July 12, the games are scheduled to feature 33 competitions and 339 events held across 42 venues.

Could the Olympics be canceled again?

Good question. Some reports said that, privately, some Japanese politicians openly believed the Olympics would have to be canceled a second time. However, the IOC president disputed that claim, saying he believes the Olympics would absolutely go ahead as scheduled. 

Japan is currently suffering from a spike in COVID-19 infections. Just under 30% of the Japanese population has been at least partially vaccinated at time of writing, and a petition to cancel the Olympics has been signed by hundreds of thousands of people. Despite this, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga believes Japan can run a “safe and secure Olympics.”

How will Japan keep the Olympics safe from COVID-19?

Japan has been in the process of issuing protocols in an attempt to keep the Olympics safe. Those participating in the Olympics will have to use Japan’s COCOA Exposure Notification app and be tested for COVID-19 every four days.

Vaccinations aren’t mandatory for Olympic athletes taking part in the games, but many countries are making sure all of its athletes are vaccinated before attending. 

The IOC has released a number of “playbooks” for participants, staff and journalists covering the Olympics. If you’re curious, you can read them here.

Can audiences attend the Olympics?

Tickets initially sold out for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, but as of right now, spectators will be barred from attending the games in Tokyo and its surrounding areas. Events held outside the area covered by the emergency (like the marathon) will allow spectators, but they’ll be asked not to cheer the runners on the roads, as noted by The New York Times.

We know for sure that international spectators won’t be able to attend. All overseas folks have had their tickets refunded.

Why isn’t it called the 2021 Olympics?

Another good question. Despite the fact it’s taking place in 2021, these Olympics are still being officially referred to as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Tokyo Olympics logo

The logo is this checkered circle, designed by Tokyo-based artist Asao Tokolo. 

screen-shot-2019-08-02-at-4-51-33-pm

IOC

“This chequered design in the traditional Japanese color of indigo blue expresses a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan,” the International Olympic Committee explains. The three different shapes within the pattern represent diversity, equality and excitement.

How to watch the Olympics

The Olympics are back on NBC, with a 24/7 stream online if you verify you’re a cable subscriber. NBCSports Gold will have a dedicated Olympics package — pay an upfront fee and you’ll be able to watch anywhere, uninterrupted by ads. 

Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of the West Coast, so watching live should get a good spread of events. It’s a little trickier on the East Coast, where you may have to rely on highlights.

The BBC will cover the games on TV, radio and online in the UK, with more on Eurosport, a pay-TV channel. The time difference there is eight hours, so you’ll have to get up very early in the morning to watch live.

In Australia, the Seven Network will spread free-to-air coverage over Channel Seven, 7Mate and 7Two. It’s a good year for watching Down Under, with Sydney only an hour ahead of Tokyo.

Tokyo Olympics: Start date, schedule, how to watch, COVID-19 protocol


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What events are new?

There are six new or returning Olympic sports to pay attention to. Missing in London and Rio, men’s baseball and women’s softball are back due to their huge popularity in Japan. Five nations will join the hosts in competing for gold on the diamond. (Just don’t ask me to explain how they qualify.) Karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding are also new, in a “How do you do, kids?” move by the IOC. In the same vein, basketball adds a three-on-three tournament for eight nations. Rugby sevens, a variant that features seven players on each side, and golf return after debuting in Rio.

Where is the next Summer Olympics?

Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics, having lost out to London for 2012. The US gets a shot in 2028, when it’ll be in Los Angeles. The Olympics website has cool pages on every games of the modern era, going back to Athens in 1896.

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