Tokyo 2021 Olympics: What to Watch on Summer Games' Opening Weekend Schedule

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 22, 2021

CHOFU, JAPAN - JULY 21: The Olympic ring logo is seen inside the stadium prior to the Women's First Round Group G match between Sweden and United States during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Stadium on July 21, 2021 in Chofu, Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics is set to take place on Friday morning, with the event being broadcast at 6:55 a.m. ET.

While some events will have already gotten underway—the softball tournament, for example, began on Tuesday evening—the showpiece will serve as a starting point for most casual fans.

Along with the opening ceremony, several marquee sporting events will take place over the weekend—but keeping track of them all can be difficult. Fans will be bombarded with a plethora of different team and individual sports, many of which don't get regular coverage in a non-Olympic year.

Here, you'll find a look at some select events on the broadcast schedule over the opening weekend, along with previews for the first three days of competition. The action, of course, starts with Friday's opening ceremony.

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2021 Tokyo Olympics, Partial Opening-Weekend Schedule

*Complete event schedule and broadcast information can be found at NBCOlympics.com.

(All times ET)

Friday, July 23

Opening Ceremony: 6:55 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Rowing, Qualifying Heat: 7:30 p.m.-2 a.m.

Cycling, Men's Road Race: 7:30 p.m.-2 a.m.

Tennis, Men's/Women's Doubles/Singles: 10 p.m.-2 a.m.


Saturday, July 24

Women's Water Polo, USA vs. Japan: 12 a.m.-2 a.m.

Archery, Mixed Team Finals: 2 a.m.-7:30 a.m.

Tennis, Men's/Women's Doubles/Singles: 2 a.m.-7 a.m.

Softball, USA vs. Mexico: 2 a.m.-7:30 a.m.

Women's Soccer, Sweden vs. Australia: 2 a.m.-7:30 a.m.

Beach Volleyball, Women's Qualifier: 2 a.m.-9:50 a.m.

Beach Volleyball, Men's Qualifier: 2 a.m.-9:50 a.m.

Swimming: Qualifying Heats: 2 a.m.- 9:50 a.m.

Basketball, Men's 3 on 3: 2 a.m.-9:50 a.m.

Men's Gymnastics, Qualifying: 6 a.m.-11 a.m.

Men's Volleyball, USA vs. France: 6 a.m.-11 a.m.

Women's Soccer, USA vs. New Zealand: 7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.

Swimming, Finals: 8 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Skateboarding, Men's Street final: 8 p.m.-2 a.m.

Softball, USA vs. Australia: 8 p.m.-1 a.m.


Sunday, July 25

Men's Water Polo, USA vs. Japan: 1 a.m.-2 a.m.

Diving, Women's Synchronized Team Final: 2 a.m.- 4 a.m.

Archery, Women's Team Final: 2 a.m.-4 a.m.

Cycling, Women's Road Race: 2 a.m.-8:20 a.m.

Tennis, Men's/Women's Singles/Doubles: 2 a.m.-7 a.m.

Women's Basketball 3 on 3, USA vs. Romania: 2 a.m.-8:20 a.m.

Men's Soccer, Brazil vs. Ivory Coast: 4:30 a.m.-6:30 a.m.

Gymnastics, Women's Qualifying: 6 a.m.-11 a.m.

Men's Basketball, USA vs. France: 6 a.m.-11 a.m.

Men's Soccer: Australia vs. Spain: 6:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m.

Women's Basketball 3 on 3:  USA vs. Taiwan: 8 a.m.-12:15 p.m.

Men's Soccer: Japan vs. Mexico: 8:30 a.m.-9 a.m.

Triathlon, Men's Final: 6:30 p.m.-9 p.m.

Skateboarding, Women's Street Final: 8 p.m.-2 a.m.

Softball, USA vs. Japan: 9 p.m.-11 p.m.

Swimming, Finals: 9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.

Tennis, Men's/Women's Doubles/Singles Second Round: 2 a.m.-7 a.m.


Weekend Preview

Deciding what to watch can be tricky, especially with multiple events going on at the same time, but the opening ceremony will be a good place to start.

Due to the reality that this is a Summer Olympics delayed a year by a global pandemic, this year's curtain-raiser might not have the party feel of previous Games.

"It will be a much more sobering ceremony. Nevertheless with beautiful Japanese aesthetics. Very Japanese but also in sync with the sentiment of today, the reality," opening ceremonies senior advisor Marco Balich said, per Karolos Grohmann of Reuters.

The spirit of worldwide competition will remain, and Friday evening will bring a couple of highlight events in the men's cycling road race and the opening round of men's and women's tennis.

Tennis, of course, is one of the sports that regularly draws fans outside of the Olympics—and global stars such as Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka will be competing in Japan.

Soccer will be another big draw during the opening weekend, as it's arguably the biggest team sport in the world. Fans can catch a pair of fantastic women's matches on Saturday morning: Sweden take on Australia at 4:30 a.m. ET, while the United States women's national team will face New Zealand three hours later.

The U.S. won the Women's World Cup in 2019 but lost 0-3 to Sweden on Wednesday. Sweden is the same team that ousted them from the knockout stage in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

"Did we expect this result tonight? No," USWNT forward Megan Rapinoe said, per Andrew Das of the New York Times. "It's frustrating, and it's frustrating that it's Sweden."

Sunday will bring a trio of men's soccer matches, including Ivory Coast vs. Brazil, the reigning Olympic champion.

Fans should also check out the early rounds of men's and women's gymnastics over opening weekend. Though a sport that doesn't regularly garner media attention in non-Olympic years, it has produced global celebrities like U.S. competitor Simone Biles.

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There might not be a more spectacular display of skill and athleticism this summer than men's and women's gymnastics.

While basketball fans may lament the end of the NBA Finals this past week, they can get a little more entertainment over the weekend. Men's and women's 3-on-3 games will take place on Saturday and Sunday.

Swimming is another sport that doesn't get a ton of attention outside of the Games, but fans should be able to get their fill this weekend. Several heats, semifinal rounds and finals will take place on Saturday and Sunday—and more swimming events will take place through August 1.

These are just some of the highlight events for opening weekend, but the Tokyo Olympics should have a little something for everyone.

And after a year of waiting, fans everywhere will be ready.