The skytree tower is illuminated at night announcing the olympics of Tokyo 2020.
We’ve assembled a guide to your (and our) favorite sports, and some answers to your most pressing Olympic questions. (Photo: Joel Papalini/iStock)

How to Watch the Tokyo Summer Games

When, how, and what to tune in for running, cycling, sport climbing, surfing, and more

The skytree tower is illuminated at night announcing the olympics of Tokyo 2020.

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Even in an average Olympic year, the Games are almost always preceded by their fair share of fanfare, controversy, political posturing, and inspiring moments. Following the global theme of the last year and a half, this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, have already been anything but average. After being postponed for the first time in modern Olympic history, the Games will begin on July 23 despite ongoing coronavirus concerns and opposition from many residents of the host country.

Some of Outside’s favorite sports will be making their Olympic debut in Tokyo—namely sport climbing and surfing—and we’ll also have our eyes on other Olympic standbys such as marathon, canoeing/kayaking, running, and cycling.

We’ve assembled a guide to your (and our) favorite sports, when and how to watch them, who to keep an eye on, and some answers to your most pressing Olympic questions.

Wait, shouldn’t it be Tokyo 2021?

No, you are not stuck in an unending time loop. This summer’s Games will still officially be called Tokyo 2020, despite taking place in 2021.

When can I watch?

The Opening Ceremony will take place on July 23, at 8 P.M. local time (7 A.M. Eastern / 4 A.M. Pacific). A few qualifying events will take place before then, but the vast majority will happen between then and the closing ceremonies on August 8 at 8 P.M. local time.

How can I watch?

NBC will continue its dominance of Olympics coverage in the U.S., with local NBC cable channels broadcasting the opening and closing ceremonies both live in the morning and again at 7:30 P.M. EDT on their respective dates. Event coverage, as well as interviews and Games-related news, will be broadcast starting at 8 P.M. EDT most evenings, with major live events available to watch in the early morning hours for U.S. viewers.

Events and ceremonies can also be streamed live at NBCOlympics.com or via the NBCSports App, where you’ll find statistics, recaps, and more.

The above options do require cable or a TV provider though. If you don’t have either, your cheapest streaming option is through NBC’s Peacock. It’s free to sign up and much of Peacock’s Olympic coverage, including the opening and closing ceremonies and competition highlights, won’t require an upgrade. However, for live coverage of the more popular events you may need a premium plan ($5/month after a seven-day free trial).

If you already have Sling TV’s Blue Plan plus Sports Extra, you’ll be able to stream limited coverage on the Olympic Channel for $46/month. YouTubeTV ($55 to $65/month) has a dedicated YouTube Olympics Channel. Hulu and FuboTV also offer NBC channel add-ons to their services.

When can I watch my favorite events?

Full Schedule

Canoeing/Kayaking

Who to Watch: The push for greater gender parity in canoe and kayak events has been coming for a long time now. This will be the first Games to allow women to compete in their own canoe slalom and canoe sprint events. International paddlers to keep your eye on include Jessica Fox of Australia and Maialen Chourrat of Spain. Meanwhile, a new favorite, 17-year-old Evy Liebfarth, will be one of the youngest representatives for Team U.S.A. after winning women’s canoe singles at the team trials in April.

Men’s Canoe Slalom:

Heats: July 25, 1 P.M. JST / 12 A.M. EDT
Semi-Final: July 26, 2 P.M. JST / 1 A.M. EDT
Final: July 26, 3:45 P.M. JST / 2:45 A.M. EDT

Women’s Kayak Slalom:

Heats: July 25, 1:47 P.M. JST / 12:47 A.M. EDT
Semi-Final: July 27, 2 P.M. JST / 1 A.M. EDT
Final: July 27, 4 P.M. JST / 3 A.M. EDT

Women’s Canoe Slalom:

Heats: July 28, 1 P.M. JST / 12 A.M. EDT
Semi-Final: July 29, 2 P.M. JST/ 1 A.M. EDT
Final: July 29, 3:45 P.M. JST / 2:45 A.M. EDT

Men’s Kayak Slalom:

Heats: July 28, 1:47 P.M. JST / 12:47 A.M. EDT
Semi-Final: July 30, 2 P.M. JST / 1 A.M. EDT
Final: July 30, 4 P.M. JST / 1 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Canoe/Kayak Sprint:

Session 1: Aug 2, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT
Session 2: Aug 3, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT
Session 3: Aug 4, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT
Session 4: Aug 5, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT
Session 5: Aug 6, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT
Session 6: Aug 7, 9:30 A.M. JST / 8:30 PM EDT

Cycling

Who to Watch: The Dutch women’s field has been particularly strong in road racing, while key contenders on the men’s side are Wout van Aert of Belgium and Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia, the latter of whom just secured a victory in the Tour de France. The ranks are equally stacked in the mountain biking events, with an unusually large number of countries bringing competitive showings in both the men’s and women’s fields. Dutchman Matheiu van der Poel is likely the man to beat and Pauline Ferrand-Prevot of France is a favorite in the women’s field. Team U.S.A. stars include Chloe Dygert and Haley Batten.

Men’s Road:

July 24, 11 A.M. JST / 10 P.M. EDT

Women’s Road:

July 25th, 1 P.M. JST / 12 A.M. EDT

Men’s XC MTB:

July 26, 3 P.M. JST / 2 A.M. EDT

Women’s XC MTB:

July 27, 3 P.M. JST / 2 A.M. EDT

Women’s Road Individual Time Trial:

July 28, 11:30 A.M. JST / 10:30 P.M. EDT

Men’s Road Individual Time Trial:

July 28, 2 P.M. JST / 1 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s BMX Racing:

Quarter Finals: July 29, 10 A.M. JST / 9 P.M. EDT
Semi Finals: July 30, 10 A.M. / 9 P.M. EDT
Finals: July 30, 11:40 A.M. / 9 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s BMX Freestyle:

Seeding: July 31, 10:10 A.M.JST / 9:10 P.M. EDT
Final: Aug 1, 10:10 A.M. JST / 9:10 P.M. EDT

Track Races:

Session 1: Aug 2, 3:30 P.M. JST / 2:30 A.M. EDT
Session 2: Aug 3, 3:30 P.M. JST / 2:30 A.M. EDT
Session 3: Aug 4, 3:50 P.M. JST / 2:50 A.M. EDT
Session 4: Aug 5, 3:30 P.M. JST / 2:30 A.M. EDT
Session 5: Aug 6, 3:30 P.M. JST / 2:30 A.M. EDT
Session 6: Aug 7, 3:30 P.M. JST / 2:30 A.M. EDT
Session 7: Aug 8, 10 A.M. JST / 9 P.M. EDT

Sport Climbing

Who to Watch: Keep your eyes on Team U.S.A. climbers Brooke Raboutou and Nathaniel Coleman, along with international favorite Adam Ondra, representing the Czech Republic. We put together a watch guide for the sport’s debut, and our friends at Climbing have published profiles of the competing teams and a comprehensive guide of where and how to watch specific competitions.

Men’s Combined Qualifying:

Aug 3, 5 P.M. JST / 4 A.M. EDT

Women’s Combined Qualifying:

Aug 4th, 5 P.M. JST / 4 A.M. EDT

Men’s Combined Final:

Aug 5th, 5:30 P.M. JST / 4:30 A.M. EDT

Women’s Combined Final:

Aug 6th, 5:30 P.M. JST / 4:30 A.M. EDT

Surfing

Who to Watch: There has been ongoing concern about the quality of the waves at Tsurigasaki Beach, the location for the Olympic’s debut surfing competition, but things are looking up. The U.S. women’s team has strong contenders in Carissa Moore, who had a good year on the WSL tour and Caroline Marks, who is an upstart but expected to perform well. Kanoa Igarashi, who just might be the “LeBron of surfing,” grew up in the U.S. but has Japanese citizenship and will be representing the host country. Team Australia is competitive with surfers like Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons on the women’s side, while on the men’s side Brazil will likely be the team to beat.

Men’s/Women’s Session 1:

July 25th, 7 A.M. JST / 6 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 2:

July 26th, 7 A.M. JST / 6 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 3:

July 27th, 7 A.M. JST / 6 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 4:

Bronze/Gold Matches: July 28th, 8 A.M. JST / 7 P.M. EDT

Triathlon

Who to Watch: Triathlete magazine has you covered with a full rundown of the events, including an explainer on the new Mixed Relay, where four athletes each complete a mini triathlon before passing the baton to their teammate. They’ve also got an in depth look at the women from around the world poised to make the podium, including Bermudan Flora Duffy and the youngest athlete on the U.S. team, Taylor Knibb.

Men’s Individual:

July 26th, 6:30 A.M. JST / 5:30 P.M. EDT

Women’s Individual:

July 27th, 6:30 A.M. JST / 5:30 P.M. EDT

Mixed Relay:

July 31st, 7:30 A.M. JST / 6:30 P.M. EDT

Running

Who to Watch: Check out this guide from Women’s Running for a full rundown of the women’s events. The finals of some of the running events we’re most excited about are listed below, but the elimination rounds are expected to be just as thrilling. All eyes are on Aliphine Tuliamuk, winner of the U.S. Women’s 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, who gave birth to her first child just six months ago. Shorter distance races have been filled with their own doping drama and marijuana controversy within the U.S., and there will be an incredibly strong showing this year from veterans like Allyson Felix and exciting newcomers like Athing Mu.

Men’s/Women’s Session 2:

July 30th, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 3: (including M’s 10,000m Final)

July 30th, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 4:

July 31st, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 5: (including 4x400m Relay Mixed, W’s 100m Final)

July 31st, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 6:

Aug 1st, 9:10 A.M. JST / 8:10 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 7: (including M’s 100m Final)

Aug 1st, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 8: (including W’s 100m Hurdles Final)

Aug 2nd, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 9: (including M’s 3000m Steeplechase Final, W’s 5000m Final)

Aug 2nd, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 10: (including M’s 400m Hurdles Final)

Aug 3rd, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 11: (including W’s 800m Final, W’s 200m Final)

Aug 3rd, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 12: (including W’s 400m Hurdles Final)

Aug 4th, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 13: (including W’s 3000m Steeplechase Final, M’s 800m Final, M’s 200m Final)

Aug 4th, 6:30 P.M. JST / 5:30 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 14:

Aug 5th, 9 A.M. JST / 8 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 1:

Aug 5th, 4:30 P.M. JST / 3:30 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 15: (including M’s 400m Final)

Aug 5th, 7 P.M. JST / 6 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 18:

Aug 6th, 5:30 A.M. JST / 4:30 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 16:

Aug 6th, 4:30 P.M. JST / 3:30 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 17: (including M’s 5000m Final, W’s 400m Final, W’s 1500m Final, M’s/W’s 4x100m Relay Finals)

Aug 6th, 7:50 P.M. JST / 6:50 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 21: (including W’s Marathon Final)

Aug 7th, 7 A.M. JST / 6 P.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 19: (including W’s 10,000m Final, M’s 1500m Final, M’s/W’s 4x400m Relay Finals)

Aug 7th, 6:50 P.M. JST / 5:50 A.M. EDT

Men’s/Women’s Session 20: (including M’s Marathon Final)

Aug 8th, 7 A.M. JST / 6 P.M. EDT

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