Skip to main content

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympics
(Image credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Tokyo Olympics are here! After a pandemic delay turned the traditional four-year wait for the summer Olympics into five years, the Tokyo Olympics will begin this week.

The Olympic games feature some of the world’s best athletes in a wide range of sports, from the track to the pool, from the hard court to the balance beam, promising to make the games’ two weeks packed with plenty of action.

Even though some sports will get underway on July 21 in Japan (the evening of July 20 for us here in the U.S.), the Tokyo Olympics officially begin with the Opening Ceremony on July 23. The Opening Ceremony is always one of the most anticipated events of the games as the host countries love to put together elaborate performances and the athletes get to walk into the main Olympic stadium behind their country’s flag. For YouTube TV subscribers, they will be able to watch the Opening Ceremony in 4K.

Of course, the Opening Ceremony, and the rest of the games, will be different from past Olympics because of the lingering effects of the global pandemic. Spectators are not permitted at events, and you’d have to imagine that something to mark the last year will be shown during the Opening Ceremony.

After the lighting of the torch, the Tokyo Olympics will be off in full swing. Fans will be treated to traditional Olympic events including track & field, gymnastics, swimming, basketball and more, while new events like rock climbing and skateboarding are joining the lineup this year, as well as the return of softball and baseball to the games. A full list of sports is available on the Olympics website.

Past Olympic stars like Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky, Adam Peaty, Caleb Dressel and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce are all back to compete and add to their legacy, as are professional athletes like Kevin Durant, Naomi Osaka, Megan Rapinoe and Novak Djokovich looking to add to their trophy cases. Of course, one of the great things about the Olympics are the new athletes who will break out over the next two weeks.

Between now and Aug. 8 fans will have the chance to enjoy the summer Olympics once again. Here’s everything you need to know about doing so.

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

As it has since 1988, NBC is the exclusive home for the Olympics. Since that time, the network has expanded its coverage to include its slew of cable networks (including the launch of The Olympics Channel) and now, for the first time, it’s Peacock streaming service.

NBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics will begin on July 20, with softball and men’s and women’s soccer playing on NBCSN, USA and The Olympic Channel. Then it kicks things into high gear with its broadcast of the Opening Ceremony on July 23 on the flagship NBC network.

To watch the flagship network, which is available as a local station in all TV markets, viewers need either a basic cable package or a good old-fashioned TV antenna. If you’ve cut the cord, vMVPD services like Fubo TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV and Hulu with Live TV also offer live NBC coverage.

For NBC’s other cable channels, which include the likes of NBCSN, USA, The Olympics Channel, the Golf Channel, CNBC, Univision and more, a cable or vMVPD subscription is required.

If you have a subscription that gives you access to these channels, you can turn that around to have NBC’s Olympics coverage on the go through the NBC Sports app, or just events through NBCSports.com.

Now for the Peacock of it all. NBCU is making a big push for its streaming service, offering full replays of events on the free tier of its streaming service, including live events for track & field and gymnastics. In addition, all team USA basketball games will be playing on Peacock, but those will only be available for subscribers to Peacock Premium, which has both a $4.99 ad-supported tier and a $9.99 ad-free tier. 

In addition, Roku and NBCUniversal have announced a partnership that will make NBCU's Olympics coverage available right from the Roku home screen.

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

Unlike in the U.S., broadcast rights for the Tokyo Olympics are split between the BBC and Eurosport.

The BBC is available to viewers with basic cable packages or through the Freeview TV service, which is in partnership with the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky to provide free access to programming for millions of viewers.

Eurosport, meanwhile, is a premium cable channel. You can subscribe to Eurosport directly, or it is included in some cable packages, like BTV.

The U.K. will also offer streaming coverage of the Olympics. This will include the BBC iPlayer, which is free to anyone with a U.K. TV license, and Eurosport Player, which is available either as part of Discovery Plus, which runs  £4.99 per month, or as an add on channel for Amazon Prime Video at a cost of  £6.99 per month.

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics in Canada

The CBC has announced it will make 3,775 hours of Olympics coverage available to viewers in Canada through CBC, TSN and Sportsnet, starting with softball and women’s soccer coverage on Wednesday, July 21. Live coverage of the Opening Ceremony, meanwhile, will play across CBC, CBC News Network, TSN and Sportsnet.

For those looking to stream the Olympics, CBC is providing free streaming options through CBC Gem, CBC’s dedicated Tokyo Olympics website (cbc.ca/tokyo2020) and the CBC Olympics app, which is available for both iOS and Android devices. CBC Gem can be watched through its smart TV app, which is available on external devices like Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Google Chromecast.

The CBC’s full Olympic broadcast schedule is available through its website

Cord cutters in Canada can access CBC's coverage of the games through Sling TV.

How to watch the Tokyo Olympics from anywhere

To have the opportunity to watch the Olympics, including the specific above mentioned broadcasts, all you really need is an internet connection. It is possible to access feeds of Olympic broadcasts through a virtual private network, or VPN.

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