The Tokyo Olympic Games: How and when to watch and stream, plus schedule highlights

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The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games (yes, the games retain the 2020 title even though they’re happening in 2021) are about to get going, with the Opening Ceremony and big competitions starting on Friday, July 23.

Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of the US for Eastern Time zone viewers, so watching could get tricky if you’re hardcore and wanting to avoid spoilers. But there will still be plenty of live action (and rebroadcasts) airing in primetime, and there are plenty of good streaming options, too.

Here’s what you need to know about watching the Olympic Games — for traditional TV viewers and streamers — along with a few schedule highlights (take note of Triangle area athletes who are competing in the games).

How to watch the Tokyo Olympic Games

Over the air

If you have an over-the-air antenna, you can watch most of the events on NBC, and that’s all free (after the cost of an antenna, which are very affordable).

Cable

If you have cable, you can also watch on NBC, or on any of NBC’s sister cable channels: NBC Sports, NBC Olympics Channel, Golf Channel, USA Network and CNBC.

If you have a paid cable (or streaming) account, you can also watch online from NBC’s website (NBC.com or NBCOlympics.com) or through the NBC Sports app (on a mobile device or streaming device, such as Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire TV). But remember, those options will require authentication (a log-on from a cable or streaming subscription).

Streaming

As we mentioned above, you can stream on the NBC Sports app (with a paid account log in).

But NBC’s new streaming service Peacock is also a good way to go. It won’t have everything, but it will have a lot.

Peacock has a free level, which will air highlights from the games — a good option for the casual Olympics fans.

For the more serious viewer, you’ll want to bump up to one of the pay levels: you can pay $5 per month for a version with ads, or $10 per month for a version with fewer ads. That’s a lot cheaper than cable.

And an added Peacock perk is the on-demand viewing of past events (with a 24-hour lag time). Peacock will also have some original programming, such as an “Olympics Highlights” show hosted by Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg, and many documentaries about current and past Olympic athletes.

Sunisa Lee in the Peacock documentary “Golden: The Journey of USA’s Elite Gymnasts.”
Sunisa Lee in the Peacock documentary “Golden: The Journey of USA’s Elite Gymnasts.”

Hulu’s premium Hulu + Live TV plan, which is $65 per month, will also carry the games via the NBC channels we mentioned above. Hulu + Live TV gives you a one-week free trial.

YouTube TV also has all of the NBC channels needed for the Olympics, and it’s also $65 per month (and there’s also a free trial).

Similarly, you can stream the NBC channels through Fubo, a service which also cost $65 per month (plus a free 7-day trial).

AT&T TV streaming service will also get you all of the Olympics channels, but you’ll need its Ultimate Package, and that costs $95 per month.

If you have Sling, you’ll get NBC, USA and NBCSN, but Sling doesn’t carry CNBC, Olympic Channel or Golf Channel. The version of Sling that would get NBC and NBCSN will cost you around $52 per month.

If you do your streaming on a Roku device, there’s an Olympics dashboard there that will have all of the pay channels grouped in one place, plus some highlights.

Other ways to see highlights

If you’re on Twitter follow @NBCOlympics for real-time live video highlights.

You can also get NBC content on Snapchat (StayTuned), Twitch (NBCOlympics) and TikTok (NBCOlympics).

Claire Curzan, 17, of Cary, N.C., pictured here practicing at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary on June 24, 2021, will be one of the youngest athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Claire Curzan, 17, of Cary, N.C., pictured here practicing at the Triangle Aquatic Center in Cary on June 24, 2021, will be one of the youngest athletes competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Olympic schedule highlights

The schedule is going to be complicated (as always), depending on whether you want to watch it live as it’s happening, or block out the world and watch later.

Here are just a few of the highlights, but please consult the schedule at Olympics.com for exact times of events, as those could change.

The Opening Ceremony

This happens on Friday, July 23, and here on the East Coast, it’ll start at 7 a.m. You can only watch that on NBC (or online at NBCOlympics.com or through the NBC Sports app with a paid cable subscription).

The Opening Ceremony will not be available on Peacock.

You can watch live at 7 a.m., or you can go about your day and catch NBC’s television rebroadcast starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. It will also air again during overnight hours.

Gymnastics

The men’s gymnastics qualifying rounds start at 9 p.m. ET on Friday, July 23.

The women’s gymnastics qualifying rounds start at 9 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 24.

Note: It looks like USA superstar Simone Biles will compete on July 25, July 27 and July 29, and again on Aug. 1, 2 and 3.

Swimming

The swimming starts at 6 a.m. ET on Saturday, July 24, and goes on through Aug. 4.

Of local interest: Cary swimmer Claire Curzan will first swim at 6:30 a.m. on July 24.

Diving

Diving events begin on Sunday, July 25 and run through Aug. 7.

Track & Field

The Track & Field events start at 8 p.m. ET on July 29. As with swimming, these events will go on for quite some time (through Aug. 7).

Volleyball

Men’s volleyball starts at 8 p.m. ET on July 23 and the women start at 8 p.m. on July 24.

Beach volleyball starts at 8 p.m. ET on July 23.

Tennis

Tennis starts on Friday, July 23 at 10 p.m. ET (table tennis starts at 8 p.m.).

Soccer

Women’s soccer starts at 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 24, and they play again on July 27 at 4 a.m. ET. The men start on July 25.

The Closing Ceremony

The Closing Ceremony takes place on Sunday, Aug. 8 and NBC will air that at 7 a.m. ET.

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