4 min read

A Return to Tokyo 2020

On demand sports.
An image of Tokyo taken during the Olympics. A TOKYO 2020 banner hangs outside a stadium.
Photo by Martin Pfirrmann / Unsplash

So much about the Olympics suck. From their repeated gaffes handling doping issues in China and Japan (hello Russian Olympic Committee) to the prohibiting of "demonstrations" like speaking out about human rights issues. And that's not even considering the fact that these games suck up a ton of money and waste them on venues that are sometimes never used again. There's a huge section on the IOC's Wikipedia page detailing everything.

That said, watching the best athletes in the world compete is incomparable to anything out there. It's a shame then, at least to me, that there are so few sports we pay attention to in the United States. Event after event all we care about is swimming, gymnastics, beach volleyball, etc. It's the same stuff televised every year.

It's one of the reasons I was really excited for this year. Finally, all of the games were streamed online, even the ones with smaller audiences. NBC reports that it aired over 7,000 hours of content from the Tokyo Olympics. There was far and away too much content for a single human being to watch.

Thankfully, all of it is archived online. The best part? Unlike my many, many complaints, NBC has removed all ad breaks. There's still a generic NBC stinger advertising whatever they're working on next, but gone are the days of there being a one minute ad after every five minute Taekwondo fight.

All of that is to say, if you've ever wanted to watch the Olympics and were frustrated by the choice of which sport gets broadcast, how certain rounds weren't available, or how you missed one match and now you feel out of the loop; you no longer have to do that.

A spreadsheet showing the Olympic schedule by day, sport, and event description.
You should 100% watch Archery, by the way, it's exciting as shit.

Simply choose a sport and watch everything that was recorded. If you, like me, prefer to watch everything in chronological order, I highly recommend this Google Sheet where you can see all 752 different broadcasts. It doesn't link the replays, but it gives you some much needed context as to which one you should select. (Particularly handy because the NBC site does sometimes have replays out of order).

ANYWAY. Onto the actual videos I recommend.

WARNING: The video descriptions under the title always contain spoilers announcing the medal winners. Cover it with your hand or something before going full screen.

I've added my links as buttons this week because this remains true for pull quotes.

Have you ever watched cycling? Let me tell you. I had not. A 5.5 hour race with seemingly little going on? Who could stand to watch that? Well, thanks to the invention of replays and the ability to pause, it's much easier of a task. Whether you turn it on while you're working, or like me, watch it before eventually dozing off each night for a week, you'll learn a whole lot. I'm particularly fond of these because you also get a lovely tour of the streets of Japan!

Admittedly I'm somewhat limited in my recommendations here. I don't watch every sport (sorry Handball, Equestrian, and Water Polo) and some commentators are far too cringe for me to listen to (coughs in Table Tennis). But as I mentioned I'm also watching in order, skipping things I don't like, which means even almost a year later I'm only on Stream 175 during Day 3. I've got quite a long way to go...

Listen, some of these streams are five hours long and overlap other five hour long streams!

Watching these has opened up my eyes to a lot of different sports. From Judo and Taekwondo to Archery and Badminton. I highly recommend you at least give each one a shot.

It's not for me, but watch Canoe Slalom, Rowing, or Surfing. While these aren't sports I'd choose to watch casually, they can be okay when you're working.

A screencap showing the language options for the stream audio: INT, ENG, and RUS.

One thing to keep an eye out for on these replays is the symbol in the picture above. When this shows, you can actually swap to another broadcast. The International version (INT) has no commentary, useful if that's distracting to you or if you'd rather just listen to the game itself. If you want to hear someone talk over the game, be sure to swap over to ENG because INT is the default.

Ultimately you can use these replays as you best see fit. I, for one, find it relaxing, and it's much more enjoyable without the live commentators trying to spin narratives between events on live TV. Who cares what the US vs China medal count is? Enjoy the sport for the sport.

Have a good week!