After a delay of 364 days and many questions about whether they would go ahead at all in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tokyo Olympic Games are finally upon us. When they were initially postponed last year it was hoped that, by this stage, the world would be a lot more open and the Games could be a celebration of coming out the other side of the pandemic. As we know, that’s not the case and we’re set for a much more different Olympics than we’re used to.
When does it start?
The action gets underway on Wednesday July 21st with the softball, football and baseball competitions but the official opening ceremony will take place on Friday July 23rd at 8pm Tokyo time which is midday Irish time due to the eight-hour time difference.
The events really get underway from the early hours of Friday morning Irish time and it will all conclude at the closing ceremony on Sunday August 8th, again at midday Irish time.
So with that time difference we’re looking at a lot of events in the middle of the night?
Unfortunately yes, if you’re looking to consume as much of the Olympics as you can then you might have to switch your body clock to Japanese time and get most of your sleep in during the day. With events taking place around Tokyo from morning until evening, the action gets underway at about 12.30am Irish time each day and runs until around 1.30pm. Thankfully the bigger finals like the 100m and much of the swimming, for example, will take place late night in Tokyo meaning lunchtime over here.
How can I follow it all?
RTÉ will broadcast the Games in Ireland with the action beginning on RTÉ2 at 1.30am each morning and running right through until 3.30pm the following afternoon. Each evening on RTÉ2 there will be Today At The Games which will round-up all of the action with particular focus on the Irish athletes. That will begin at 7pm.
BBC One and BBC Two will also show all of the action as they hold the exclusive UK rights with programming beginning at midnight each day and running through until 3pm while they will also show a round-up programme at 7.30pm each night.
On The Irish Times website and in the newspaper you can keep up to date with all of the news, reports, reaction and analysis from Tokyo where Ian O'Riordan and Johnny Watterson will be stationed for the duration of the Games. The easiest way to follow it all is on our dedicated Tokyo 2020 site. Each evening we will have a guide to the following day's action with times for key events and a breakdown of all of the Irish athletes competing.
But isn’t Japan in the middle of another Covid wave at the moment?
It certainly is and that’s the reason why there is so much controversy around these Games as over 11,000 athletes from 205 different countries descend upon the Japanese capital. There is an eerie feeling around Tokyo as the Games tick closer and there have been protests in recent months against the Games taking place due to the fear of rising Covid numbers while on a small portion of the population has been vaccinated. Tokyo is currently in a state of emergency and tight restrictions are in place which include restaurants being forced to close at 7pm and banned from selling alcohol while the Olympic Village experience for the athletes will be a long way from the usual vibrant party scene. Instead athletes will be restricted to their own quarters and will essentially train, compete and then leave.
Initially it was decided that limited numbers of fans would be allowed to attend events but that has now been scrapped in the last few weeks with the decision that all events will take place behind closed doors with only media, team members and VIPs allowed to attend. The Games have been beset by controversy since the pandemic forced their delay and already there have been a number of cases of Covid-19 detected in the Olympic Village which have ended the hopes of some athletes before the Games even begin while Coco Gauff announced on Monday that she would be unable to represent the US after she tested positive for the virus.
Infection rates are also rising in the Japanese capital after topping 1,000 new cases for four consecutive days. With testing taking place among athletes every day there is a real fear that large numbers may be unable to compete if the virus is already spreading through the Olympic Village.
In his column in The Irish Times on Monday, Brian O'Connor wrote that the idea of this Olympics going ahead given the current situation is an absurd exercise in greed.
Right, so all of that aside, what’s the Irish team looking like?
Stronger than ever, in numbers anyway! This will be the biggest Irish team ever to compete in an Olympic Games with 116 athletes representing the tricolour across a record 19 different sports.
From rowing to boxing, golf to gymnastics, sailing to equestrian, there are hopes that this could also be Ireland’s best ever Olympics from a medals point of view.
For a full breakdown of the Irish team and individual profiles on all 116 athletes, you can visit our Team Ireland page where Ian O'Riordan and Johnny Watterson take you through every man and woman who will don the Irish jersey.
Do you have a sport-by-sport breakdown of which Irish athletes are competing and when?
Yes, we certainly do.
The athletics events take place in the second week of the Games, running from Friday, July 30th - Sunday, August 8th, with events in both Sapporo Odori Park and the Olympic Stadium.
Team Ireland has also selected eight athletes to compete across the Marathon and 50km Race Walk events in Sapporo, 800km north of Tokyo. An experienced team of five marathon runners and three race walkers will compete across four days in Sapporo from the August 5th-8th. The times in brackets are when each of the athletes will compete. Click on any of the athletes names to read their profiles.
The Badminton events take place in the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, with the Men’s Singles from the July 24th to the finals on August 2nd.
The boxing events take place in the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo from July 24th - August 8th.
Ireland will be represented by Liam Jegou with the 25-year-old competing in the C1 category at the Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre in Tokyo from July 25th-26th.
The track teams will compete in the Izu Velodrome from August 5th-8th. For the road team, the 224km Olympic Road Race will start and finish at the Fuji International Speedway on Saturday July 24th and the Time Trial takes place the following Wednesday, July 28th, starting at the same venue.
Irish interest in the diving competition take place in the purpose built Tokyo Aquatics Centre from August 2nd-5th.
The majority of the Equestrian events take place in the original arena that hosted the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Equestrian Park, with the Eventing Cross-Country taking place on the Sea Forest Cross-Country Course. Starting on Saturday, July 24th with Dressage, the equestrian schedule runs through to Saturday, August 7th, with the finals of the Jumping.
The golf venue is the Kasumigaseki Country Club on the outskirts of Tokyo city. The men’s event is the first on the golf schedule and will feature Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry from Thursday, July 29th to Sunday, August 1st while Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow will compete in the women’s event from Wednesday, August 4th to Saturday, August 7th. Both will be individual strokeplay events.
Rhys McClenaghan will compete in the Men’s Pommel Horse and Meg Ryan in the Women’s All-Around which takes place in the Ariake Gymnastics Centre from Saturday, July 24th until Tuesday, August 3rd.
In Tokyo, the women’s team will compete in Pool A, alongside South Africa, the Netherlands, Germany, India and Olympic Champions, Great Britain. Their first match takes place on Saturday, July 24th against South Africa.
Katie Mullan (captain)
Anna O’ Flanagan
Zara Malseed (Accredited Reserve)
Michelle Carey (Accredited Reserve)
Ireland’s two athletes will compete in the Nippon Budokan on July 28th and 29th.
The competition in Tokyo is one of the final events on the schedule, and the women’s event runs from August 5th-6th.
Rowing (13 in six boats)
The Olympic Rowing Regatta takes place in the Sea Forest Waterway and runs from July 23rd until July 30th.
Fintan McCarthy & Paul O'Donovan - Lightweight Men's Double Scull
Sanita Puspure - Women's Single
Ronan Byrne & Philip Doyle - Men's Double Scull
Emily Hegarty, Fiona Murtagh, Eimear Lambe, Aifric Keogh - Women's four
Monika Dukarska & Aileen Crowley - Women's Pair
Aoife Casey & Margaret Cremen - Lightweight Women's Double Scull
The events will take place in the Tokyo Stadium, and will run from Monday, July 26th until Wednesday, July 28th. Team Ireland compete in Pool C, facing South Africa, USA and Kenya in matches which are seven minutes per half and a two minute break between the halves.
Team profileJordan Conroy
The sailing events in Tokyo will run from the July 25th to August 2nd at Enoshima Yacht Harbour.
Annalise Murphy - Laser radial
The Men’s Trap takes place in the Asaka Shooting Range from July 29th to 30th.
The swimmers will be in action in the newly built Tokyo Aquatics Centre from Saturday, July 24th to Sunday, August 1st.
Jack Woolley he will be one of the first Irish athletes in action in Tokyo, competing in the Makuhari Messe Hall on July 24th.
The competition in Tokyo will run from the July 26th-27th in Odaiba Marine Park, close to the famed Rainbow Bridge.
What are some of the biggest events over the two weeks?
It goes without saying that Simone Biles will be one of the biggest draws at these Games as the United States’ most decorated gymnast of all time looks to make more history. Watching Biles in action is one of the greatest spectacles in sport these days and she will begin with qualification from 2am on Sunday, July 25th. The women’s team final will begin at 11.45am on Tuesday, July 27th while Biles can become the first woman in more than half a century to retain the women’s all-around title on Thursday, July 29th (11.50am). You can also catch her in the women’s vault on Sunday, August 1st (9.45am), the women’s floor on Monday, August 2nd (9.45am) and the beam final on Tuesday, August 3rd at 9.30am.
Katie Ledecky was one of the biggest stars of the 2016 Olympics when she won five golds and broke two world records – just a couple of the 14 she’s broken throughout her career. This year she will defend her 200m (final on Wednesday July 28th at 2.41am), 400m (final on Monday, July 26th at 3.20am) and 800m (final on Saturday, July 31st at 2.46am) freestyle titles while also competing for the first time in the 1,500m freestyle (final on Wednesday, July 28th at 3.54am).
It goes without saying that the 100m men’s and women’s track finals always take a large chunk of the limelight at the Olympics and, while there will be no Usain Bolt this year, Tokyo will be no different. American Trayvon Bromell will be the favourite for the men’s race (final on Sunday, August 1st at 1.50pm) while Jamaica’s Shelley-Ann Fraser-Price is the big draw in the women’s race (final on Saturday, July 31st at 1.50pm).
If new Olympics sports are your thing then skateboarding makes its first appearance this year and it promises to make for interesting viewing. With two disciplines the men’s street prelims and finals will run from 1am to 4.25am on Sunday, July 25th with the women’s event the following day at the same times. On Wednesday, August 4th the women’s park prelims and finals will take place at the same times with the men’s event the following day.