Let the Games Begin! What to Expect From the Delayed Tokyo Olympics on NBC

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The waiting game is over: The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have finally arrived. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, the 17-day premier international event experienced the most astonishing “false start” in modern sports history. But come July 23, some 11,000 generally relaxed and vaxxed athletes from more than 200 nations will begin to compete in 33 sports—with a grateful world watching.

As always, the United States team enters with high hopes. (At 46 golds and 121 total medals, the U.S. trounced all comers at the 2016 Rio Games.) And NBC plans to capture every leg of competition, from aquatics to wrestling, in record-breaking fashion, with over 7,000 hours of coverage across multiple networks and platforms, along with 5,500 hours of streaming.

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Health protocols will keep athletes’ family members from flying to Japan, but the network’s “Family and Friends” production unit will capture loved ones’ reactions and allow them to communicate with competitors on camera. Granted, there’s no masking the fact that these Olympics will be different, but in the hearts and minds of entrants, golden goals remain.

“In a way, these Games may be even more energizing,” says Mike Tirico, who will be working his second Olympics as host of NBC’s primetime coverage. “I saw a lot of emotion from athletes competing at the trials. I think that’s an example of what we’ll be seeing in Tokyo. Let’s just remind ourselves, the Olympic movement is usually four years of work that pays off in something like 30 seconds, a minute, maybe two minutes. Now it’s an extra year.”

That gap reset teams around the globe, as some older athletes moved past their prime and a few younger ones sped into theirs. “It’s hard enough to have to peak in a normal cycle,” admits five-time Olympic gymnastics medalist turned commentator Nastia Liukin. “Would the athletes have liked this to be different? Of course, but at least they can compete now, and dreams can come true.”

Tokyo Olympics NBC Rings Across America

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NBC is set to celebrate all the contenders in these pages, and the many more wearing their own nation’s colors. For his part, Tirico—who’ll man an outdoor set in Tokyo—looks forward to interviews with the victors, even if they’re virtual. “Nothing will keep us from sharing the emotions of the Games.”

2020 Tokyo Olympics Opening Ceremony, Friday, July 23, 7am/6c and 7:30/6:30c, NBC