Olympics 2021: When do the Tokyo Games start? Everything you need to know

·6-min read

Watch: Tokyo 2020 – what you need to know ahead of the Olympics

The Olympic Games are back this year and will get underway in Tokyo later this month. 

Originally due to be held in 2020, the event was postponed amid the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought plans for large gatherings and events to a standstill. 

Despite the break to the traditional four-year Olympic cycle, you may still see the Games being referred to as Tokyo 2020.

There will be 33 competitions and 339 events across 42 venues. 

As the world gears up for one of the biggest sporting events on the planet, here's what you need to know.

When do the Olympic Games start?

OLYMPIA, GREECE - MARCH 12: Greek actress Xanthi Georgiou in the role of the High Priestess lights the torch of the Olympic Flame during the Lighting Ceremonyâ of the Olympic Flame for the Tokyo Summer Olympics, at the Temple of Hera in Ancient Olympia, Greece, on 12 March 2020. (Photo by Antonis Nikolopoulos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Greek actor Xanthi Georgiou, in the role of the High Priestess, lights the torch of the Olympic Flame for the Tokyo Summer Olympics. (Antonis Nikolopoulos/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The opening ceremony is due to take place on Friday 23 July. However, some events will be held before then:

  • Wednesday 21 July: baseball/softball, women's football

  • Thursday 22 July: baseball/softball, men's football

Archery and rowing events will also be held on the day of the opening ceremony.  

Can I get tickets to the Olympics?

Unfortunately no overseas spectators will be allowed to watch the Games in person, due to COVID restrictions. 

It certainly will feel different not hearing the crowds burst into thunderous applause at the twists and tumbles of the gymnasts and the lightning speed of the athletes across track and field. 

Which new sports are being added to the Olympics? 

There are five new sports joining the Olympic programme this year: baseball/softball, skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate.

How do I watch the Olympics?

You can watch the Games on BBC and Eurosport. 

Where can I find the Olympic schedule?

The full schedule for the Olympic Games is available here on the Olympics website.

When do the Olympic Games finish?

The closing ceremony will be on Sunday 8 August with a few other sporting events happening that day as well, such as athletics and rhythmic gymnastics.

The big names in Team GB to look out for:

Andy Murray

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 14:  Andy Murray of Great Britain poses with his Gold medal after defeating Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina in the Men's singles final at Olympic Tennis Centre on August 14, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Andy Murray poses with his Gold medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At 34 years of age, Murray is the only tennis player in history to win the gold medal in the men's singles in consecutive Olympics – at London 2012 and Rio 2016. 

The three-time Grand Slam champion was knocked out of the Wimbledon Championships this year. Will he strike gold once again at Tokyo 2020?

Dina Asher-Smith

Dina Asher-Smith celebrates after winning the Women's 100 metre final during day two of the Muller British Athletics Championships at Manchester Regional Arena. Picture date: Saturday June 26, 2021. (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Dina Asher-Smith celebrates her win at the women's 100m final during the British Athletics Championships. (Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

Dina Asher-Smith is currently the 200m reigning champion with a time of 22.06 seconds after her triumph at the Diamond League in June. 

She was also victorious at the British Athletics Championships, clocking 10.97 seconds in the 100m.  

Asher-Smith is ready for Tokyo and will be in the 100m and 200m sprints. 

Tom Daley

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 8, 2016: Bronze medallists Tom Daley (L) and Daniel Goodfellow of the United Kingdom pose at a victory ceremony for the men's synchronised 10m platform final at the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games, at Maria Lenk Aquatics Centre. Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS (Photo by Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)
Bronze medallists Tom Daley (right) and Daniel Goodfellow pose after the men's synchronised 10m platform final at Rio 2016. (Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images)

We remember the diver winning bronze in London 2012 at the age of 18, and taking home another bronze medal in synchronised diving with diving partner Dan Goodfellow in Rio 2016. 

Daley, now 27, is returning for his third Olympic Games.

Laura and Jason Kenny

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  Team GB cyclists Laura Trott and Jason Kenny pose with their gold medals at Adidas House on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Laura and Jason Kenny have been triumphant on the track in past Olympics. (Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

These two make a highly successful Olympic couple. 

Laura Trott (as she was known before she married) became the first woman in British history to win four gold medals at the Games. 

Her husband Jason Kenny has won six gold medals and a silver medal for the team. 

They are both returning this year as part of a squad of 26 cyclists for Team GB. 

Helen Glover 

Britain's Heather Stanning (L) and Britain's Helen Glover row to win the Women's Pair final rowing competition at the Lagoa stadium during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 12, 2016. / AFP / Damien MEYER        (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP via Getty Images)
Heather Stanning (left) and Helen Glover in action during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. (Damien Meyer/AFP via Getty Images)

Glover won Britain's first gold medal for London 2012 in the women's paired rowing with Heather Stanning, and she will be back with Polly Swann, a silver medalist from Rio 2016. 

She will be the first mother to compete in the GB rowing team.

Great Britain's Polly Swann during the Team GB Tokyo 2020 Rowing team announcement at the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake, Reading. Picture date: Wednesday June 9, 2021. (Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)
Great Britain's Polly Swann willl partner up with Helen Glover. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Will Mo Farah be competing in the Olympics?

Great Britain's Mo Farah with his 2 Olympic gold medals he won in the Men's 10,000, and 5000m, pictured during a photcall at BOA House, Stratford, London   (Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Sir Mo Farah will be missed this year – it will be the first time he is not part of the British athletics squad since 2004. (Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

Unfortunately Sir Mo Farah will not be defending his 10,000m title in Tokyo. 

The decorated long-distance runner achieved a "double-double" – winning gold for both the 5,000m and 10,000m races in London 2012 and Rio 2016, but was 19 seconds out of the required time at the British Athletics Championships, finishing at 27 minutes and 47 seconds when he needed 27 minutes and 28 seconds or less to book his Tokyo spot. 

When did the Olympic Games begin?

Scholars have traditionally traced the Olympics back to 776 BC, over 2,700 years ago. They were traditionally a religious festival as well as a sporting event, held in honour of Zeus, king of the gods. These ancient Olympics seem to have ended in the fourth century AD. 

The modern Olympic Games were first held in Athens, Greece, in 1896.

GREECE - AUGUST 24: Temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieion) in Athens, Greece. Greek and Roman civilisation, 2nd century BC-2nd century AD. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
The remains of the temple of Olympian Zeus (Olympieion) in Athens, Greece. (DeAgostini/Getty Images)

What sports were originally played at the Olympics?

Some of the first sports competitions at the Games were running, discus, javelin, wrestling, the long jump and horse-racing. Nowadays they include many other sports, including gymnastics, surfing and synchronised swimming. 

Why are the Olympics held every four years?

The quadrennial cycles are thanks to the tradition of holding the competitions in Olympia, south west-Greece, and counting dates in four-year "Olympiads" rather than years. 

Why are there five Olympic rings?

The rings represent each of the continents Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania, based on a design first created by Pierre de Coubertin in 1913. 

According to the International Olympic Committee, the interlocking symbol “expresses the activity of the Olympic Movement and represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games.”

Sign of Olympic rings, symbol of Olympics in urban environment.
The five Olympic rings (Getty Images)
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