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Tokyo Olympics: How to watch swimming

Caleb Dressel
Caleb Dressel (Image credit: Getty)

Swimming is a fan favorite event at nearly every Olympics and is set to be again at the Tokyo Olympics, as it will dominate the first week of the games on site and on TV.

The pool has been the location of so many great Olympics moments in recent years — a great many of them coming from Michael Phelps — but there are swimmers from all over the world who look to be the stars of these games.

For the U.S., Katie Ledecky won four gold medals at the Rio Olympics and looks to reaffirm her dominance in the water while also looking to equal or break the all-time medals record for a female swimmer. Also Caleb Dressel is striving to have a breakout Olympics for team USA.

Great Britain also has a handful of impressive swimmers with medal aspirations, headlined by Adam Peaty, who has been setting the breaststroke field ablaze with his speed.

Also: Britain's former double gold medalist Rebecca Adlington looks ahead to the pool action.

Other names to watch out for include Australia’s Ariarne Titmus, making her Olympics debut, and Kristof Milak of Hungary, another Olympics rookie that will be among Dressel’s top competitors.

Here’s all you need to know about watching these athletes and all the other swimmers competing at the Tokyo Olympics. Plus, here's a guide on how to watch all of the Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo Olympics swimming schedule

July 24
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Men’s 400m IM; Women’s 100m Butterfly; Men’s 400m Freestyle; Women’s 400m IM; Men’s 100m Breaststroke; Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Women’s 100m Butterfly; Men’s 100m Breaststroke
- Finals: Men’s 400m IM; Men’s 400m Freestyle; Women’s 400m IM; Women’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

July 25
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Women’s 100m Backstroke; Men’s 200m Freestyle; Women’s 100m Breaststroke; Men’s 100m Backstroke; Women’s 400m Freestyle; Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Men’s 200m Freestyle; Women’s 100m Breaststroke; Men’s 100m Backstroke; Women’s 100m Backstroke
- Finals: Women’s 100m Butterfly; Men’s 100m Breaststroke; Women’s 400m Freestyle; Men’s 4x100m Freestyle Relay

July 26
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Women’s 200m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Butterfly; Women’s 200m IM; Women’s 1500m Freestyle

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Women’s 200m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Butterfly; Women’s 200m IM
- Finals: Men’s 200m Freestyle; Women’s 100m Backstroke; Men’s 100m Backstroke; Women’s 100m Breaststroke

July 27
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Men’s 100m Freestyle; Women’s 200m Butterfly; Men’s 200m Breaststroke; Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay; Men’s 800m Freestyle

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Men’s 100m Freestyle; Women’s 200m Butterfly; Men’s 200m Breaststroke
- Finals: Women’s 200m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Butterfly; Women’s 200m IM; Women’s 1500m Freestyle; Men’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay

July 28
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Women’s 100m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Backstroke; Women’s 200m Breaststroke; Men’s 200m IM; Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Women’s 100m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Backstroke; Women’s 200m Breaststroke; Men’s 200m IM
- Finals: Men’s 800m Freestyle; Men’s 200m Breaststroke; Women’s 200m Butterfly; Men’s 100m Freestyle; Women’s 4x200m Freestyle Relay

July 29
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Women’s 800m Freestyle; Men’s 100m Butterfly; Women’s 200m Backstroke; Mixed 4x100 Medley Relay

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Men’s 100m Butterfly; Women’s 200m Backstroke
- Finals: Women’s 200m Breaststroke; Men’s 200m Backstroke; Women’s 100m Freestyle; Men’s 200m IM

July 30
6 a.m. ET, USA
- Heats: Men’s 50m Freestyle; Women’s 50m Freestyle; Men’s 1500m Freestyle; Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay; Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay

9:30 p.m. ET, NBC
- Semifinals: Men’s 50m Freestyle; Women’s 50m Freestyle
- Finals: Men’s 100m Butterfly; Women’s 200m Backstroke; Women’s 800m Freestyle; Mixed 4x100m Medley Relay

July 31
9:30 p.m. ET
- Finals: Men’s 50m Freestyle; Women’s 50m Freestyle; Men’s 1500m Freestyle; Women’s 4x100m Medley Relay; Men’s 4x100m Medley Relay

Aug. 3
5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN: Open Water Women’s 10km Final

Aug. 4
5:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN: Open Water Men’s 10km Final

How to watch Tokyo Olympics swimming events in the U.S.

Swimming is one of the marquee events for NBC’s Olympics broadcast, and the network will make it very easy for people to watch all the action.

All of the swimming heats will take place in the early morning live on USA, while all semifinals and finals will air during primetime on the flagship NBC network (until the open water swimming finals, which will air on NBCSN).

Viewers with an antenna, basic cable package or a subscription to the major vMVPD streaming services (YouTube TV, Fubo TV, Sling TV or Hulu with Live TV) all have access to their local NBC station, which will feature all of the primetime Olympic broadcasts. To watch any of the swimming events that air on USA or NBCSN, a viewer will need a cable or vMVPD subscription that includes these cable networks (most do).

If you have a subscription that carries these networks, you can also watch Olympics coverage through the NBC Sports app or NBCSports.com.

Full event replays will also be available on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service. Full event replays will be available on all Peacock packages, including its free version. Peacock is also carrying some live events during the games, which includes team USA men’s basketball that will only be available through a Peacock Premium package.

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics swimming events in the U.K.

Over in the U.K., Tokyo Olympic TV broadcast rights are being split among the BBC and Eurosport. BBC is easily available through basic cable packages and Freeview TV, while Eurosport does require a premium subscription. Broadcast schedules for the Olympics on the BBC and Eurosport will be available on their websites.

To stream Olympics content, BBC iPlayer and Eurosport/Discovery Plus have you covered. BBC iPlayer is free but requires a U.K. TV license. A Eurosport/Discovery Plus subscription runs £4.99 per month, or it can be added as an Amazon Prime Video channel for an extra £6.99 to an Amazon Prime subscription.

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics swimming events in Canada

The CBC will once again be the home of the Olympics for Canada, but it will also provide coverage of the games on TSN and Sportsnet that will amount to more than 3,700 hours of coverage. CBC will also provide live streaming across all of its digital platforms.

The CBC broadcast TV schedule during the games right now is broken into four six-hour long programs that will cover events throughout the day (though it does not specify at this time). Meanwhile, CBC Sports Streaming will feature just about every Olympic event live on CBC Gem, the CBC's dedicated Tokyo Olympics website and the CBC Olympics app.

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics swimming events from anywhere 

Olympics fans can make sure they see all of the swimming action with the use of a virtual private network. A VPN routes the network traffic to and from your computer through a specific set of servers in a specific country, allowing for users to watch content on an encrypted feed.   

ExpressVPN is one of the easiest and affordable ways to watch what you want from anywhere you want to watch it. Plus it'll help keep your network traffic away from any prying eyes on public networks.

And it's a great way to keep up with all of the action of the Olympics from anywhere in the world.View Deal

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.