Summer Olympics 2021: What to Watch for on Day 1 in Tokyo

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2021

Summer Olympics 2021: What to Watch for on Day 1 in Tokyo

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    Jin-man Lee/Associated Press

    The official Day 1 of the Tokyo Summer Olympics starts with a celebration. And then, it'll be time to unleash the competitors.

    After the opening ceremony, a few marquee sports will get underway. While the soccer and softball tournaments continue, several moretennis, men's 3x3 basketball and beach volleyball, among themhave their opening day on the schedule.

    Because of the dramatic time difference between Tokyo and any location in the United States, most competitions will take place overnight. Each event highlighted in this piece will take place Friday night through Saturday morning.

    This is your guide to Day 1 at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Opening Ceremony

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Although the Summer Olympics are underway, the opening ceremony is slated for Friday in Tokyo.

    The festivities will begin at 6:55 a.m. ET. If you're a morning person, NBC has a variety of ways you can watch. Along with live viewing on TV, the NBC Sports app and will have a stream available.

    If the early slot doesn't work for you, NBC has a prime-time broadcast with coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. ET. Both the NBC Sports App and will again stream the ceremony.

    Veteran basketball player Sue Bird will be a flag-bearer for the United States along with baseball player Eddy Alvarez. Bird is a five-time Olympian who won a gold medal at each of the last four Summer Games. Alvarez won a silver medal in Sochi in 2014 as a member of the 5,000-meter short track speedskating team.

    According to Team USA, more than 230 of the 613 athletes named to the U.S. Olympic Team will walk in the Opening Ceremony.

1st Round of Tennis Tournaments

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    Novak Djokovic
    Novak DjokovicAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    Host country Japan has a plethora of top medal contenders, but Naomi Osaka is among its greatest hopes.

    Friday at 10 p.m. ET, the 2021 Australian Open winner takes on China's Saisai Zheng. It will be Osaka's first competition since withdrawing from the French Open in May to focus on her mental health. In her career opposite Zheng, Osaka is 2-1.

    The fourth match on Centre Court belongs to Novak Djokovic, who begins his pursuit of the Golden Slam. The world No. 1 has already won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon in 2021, so he needs an Olympic gold and U.S. Open title to complete the feat. Djokovic drew Bolivia's Hugo Dellien in the first round.

    Jessica Pegula is the top American in play. She'll oppose Switzerland's Belinda Bencic in the third match scheduled for Court 1.

    The full schedule is available on

US Softball Takes on Mexico

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    Monica Abbott
    Monica AbbottJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Not since 2008 has softball been contested at the Olympics, but Team USA is off to an excellent start in Tokyo during the sport's return.

    So far, pitching has carried the U.S. team. Cat Osterman struck out nine in a 2-0 win against Italy, and Monica Abbott pitched a one-hitter in a 1-0 victory over Canada. The veterans bring the only Olympic experience to this roster; both earned silver medals in 2008, and Osterman won gold in 2004.

    If the U.S. topples Mexico on Saturday (1:30 a.m. ET), a spot in the gold-medal game is nearly secure. Team USA would improve to 3-0 in the five-game round-robin group stage.

    Top competitor Japan, which has also started 2-0, meets Italy (7 a.m.) later in the morning.

USWNT Aims to Recover from Early Loss

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    Ricardo Mazalan/Associated Press

    Ugh, Sweden.

    That's the simple takeaway after the ever-present thorn struck again, smacking the U.S. women's national team 3-0. It snapped a 44-game unbeaten streak for the gold-medal favorite.

    "We got our asses kicked, didn't we?" star winger Megan Rapinoe said after the loss, per Goal's James Westwood.

    But a chance to rebound is up next.

    Saturday at 7:30 a.m. ET, the U.S. women return to the field against New Zealand. While the loss to Sweden (in theory) shook the Americans, they are expected to win comfortably. New Zealand lost a pre-Olympic friendly to Great Britain 3-0 and opened its stay in Tokyo with a 2-1 loss to Australia.

    The USWNT suddenly has a razor-thin margin for error in the group stage, but a victory Saturday would put the team on track to reach the knockout round.

Swimming Heats for 6 Events

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    Martin Meissner/Associated Press

    No swimming medals will be distributed Saturday morning, but two hours of heat races will set the stage for Sunday.

    Beginning at 6:02 a.m. ET Saturday, the Tokyo Aquatics Centre will breeze through six events: the men's 400m individual medley, women's 100m butterfly, men's 400m freestyle, women's 400m individual medley, men's 100m breaststroke and women's 4x100 freestyle relay.

    From an individual perspective for Team USA, key swimmers to watch are Torri Huske (100m butterfly), Chase Kalisz and Hali Flickinger (400m IM) and Michael Andrew (100m breaststroke).

    The U.S. women's 4x100 relay team is a medal contender, though reigning gold medalist Australia is the race favorite.

Debut of 3x3 Basketball

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    (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    For the last couple of decades, the U.S. men and women have dominated the hardwood. But in Tokyo, a new gold medal will be available in basketball: 3x3.

    The fast-moving games are played on a half-court with a 12-second shot clock. Any missed shot must be "cleared," which means taking the ball beyond the three-point line. The first team to 21or the highest score after 10 minutes—wins.

    From a U.S. perspective, the women's team owns the spotlight because the men did not qualify.

    WNBA standouts Kelsey Plum, Allisha Gray and Stefanie Dolson lead the roster. Jackie Young replaced Katie Lou Samuelson because of health and safety protocols. Saturday, the U.S. women take on both France (4:55 a.m. ET) and Mongolia (8 a.m.).

    France is viewed as the primary threat to a gold for Team USA.

Preliminary Round in Beach Volleyball

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    Anders Mol and Christian Sorum
    Anders Mol and Christian SorumAndrei Golovanov/Associated Press

    Beach volleyball is always a gripping tournament to watch, and the world's top teams will be in action Saturday.

    Session 1 begins Friday at 8 p.m. ET and features two medal contenders on the women's side. Brazil's Agatha Bednarczuka silver medalist in 2016and Eduarda Santos Lisboa (vs. Argentina) are scheduled to play at 10 p.m., and Canada's Sarah Pavan and Melissa Humana-Paredes (vs. the Netherlands) will follow.

    The first U.S. team in action will be Nick Lucena and Phil Dalhausser. The duo is slated to meet the Netherlands at 8 a.m. Saturday.

    Norway's Anders Mol and Christian Sorum, the men's gold-medal favorites, round out the day at 9 a.m. against Australia.


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