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How to watch the Olympics: Your ultimate guide

A family sitting on the couch streaming the Olympics. OK, we can't see the screen so we don't know what they're streaming but let's say it's the Olympics.

Olympics fans, your long wait is over. After more than a year of wondering when the Olympics will be, we finally have a full schedule and a field of Olympians ready to compete for gold—and thanks to expanded broadcast and streaming availability, your options for how to watch the Olympics are better than ever.

Don’t miss out on this summer’s action. Read on for tips on how to watch the Olympics, how to stream the Olympics to your mobile devices, and where you can find additional Olympics content beyond the competitions themselves.

When are the Olympics in 2021 scheduled to start?

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the postponement of the 2020 Summer Games, many of us eagerly awaited the news of when, or if, the Olympics would be held in 2021. With just weeks before the games are set to begin, we finally have our answer: The opening ceremony for the Tokyo Summer Olympics will kick off on July 23, and events will be televised and streamed daily until the Olympics closing ceremony on August 8.

For some events, such as baseball and soccer, the Olympic competition will actually start before the opening ceremony, with the events scheduled to begin on July 21. You can track the daily schedule of events through the official Olympic Games competition schedule.

Who is broadcasting or streaming the Olympics?

All Olympics broadcast and streaming rights are owned by NBC in the U.S. While Olympic coverage will be broadcast across a number of NBC networks—including NBC, CNBC, NBC Sports Network, Olympic Network, Golf Channel, and others—NBC’s new streaming service, Peacock, will offer free daily Olympic content, including highlights and commentary, and NBC Gold Zone will allow streamers to keep up with multiple events at once.

In addition to your cable TV package, Olympic competitions and content can also be viewed through a number of different streaming services that offer NBC channels. If you’re wondering how to stream the Olympics on your TV or mobile device, note that Hulu, Sling TV, YouTube TV and fuboTV are among the streaming services that will allow you to view the Olympic competitions and related content. Keep in mind that specific events and content offerings may vary from platform to platform.

How to watch the Olympics opening and closing ceremonies

For the first time ever, NBC is planning to broadcast the opening ceremony live across all time zones in the United States. You can also stream the opening ceremony live on any streaming service that offers NBC content, including Hulu, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and the other major streaming services.

If you don’t subscribe to any paid service, Peacock is scheduled to offer free live streams of the Olympic opening ceremony and the closing ceremony. The broadcast for the opening ceremony will begin at 7 AM EST/4 PM PST on Friday, Jul 23.

When will Olympics events be broadcast or available to stream?

Because Tokyo’s time zone is 13 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time and 16 hours ahead of viewers on the West Coast, some events will be taking place in Japan when much of the United States is asleep. To maximize viewing opportunities for U.S. audiences, broadcasts and streamed events will be available through a combination of live broadcasts and streams, tape delays, and on-demand content.

Broadcast availability may vary from event to event. While some broadcasts and streams will be available live, others may only be available as on-demand content. Some Olympic events may also be rebroadcast throughout the day, particularly during times when no events are being held in Japan due to the time difference.

When are the Tokyo Olympics’ biggest events taking place?

Now that you know how to watch the Olympics when they begin later this month, you can plan which must-see events you need to add to your calendar.

While every fan of the Olympic Games can point to certain competitions they look forward to, this year women’s gymnastics and swimming competitions are set to be major spectacles for TV and streaming audiences. To help you keep track of your favorite sports events, here’s a quick roundup of competitions that will draw a big American viewership:

  • Soccer: July 21-August 7
  • Swimming: July 24-August 1
  • Tennis: July 24-August 1
  • Gymnastics: July 24-August 3
  • Beach Volleyball: July 24-August 7
  • Surfing: July 25-28
  • Track & Field: July 30-August 7

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