2021 Tokyo Olympics
The only Olympic spreadsheet you, a red-blooded American Olympic zealot, will ever need
This week, if you're one of those people who plots out exactly how you'll watch the Olympics so you don't suffer an unthinkable tragedy like missing the men's team archery quarterfinals at 3:45 a.m—that is, if you're exactly like me—you will be deluded by spreadsheets. It is the height of Olympic spreadsheet season on social media, and the sheer volume can be oppressive. Many of them are comprehensive and somewhat useful. But will any give us exactly what we need?
Friends, I have scoured the Internet, and the answer is no. Everywhere you look, it's a case of too much information.
So I took matters into my own hands. A full explanation follows, but for now, behold:
I am a certain kind of rabid Olympic fan, and I suspect there are many like me out there in the world, and especially in America. Before creating my own sheet in 2016, I asked myself an important question: "What do you actually want to watch?" It's a more significant question than it seems on first glance, because while I love the Olympics, a lot, the truth is that I don't want or need to be watch the judo 76kg+ repechage rounds, and thus many of the more thorough spreadsheets and viewing guides tend to get cluttered for me. So what do I want? Well, it comes down to a few basic things:
1. I want to know anytime a medal is up for grabs. This is what's great and special about the Olympics, and I'll eagerly watch sports I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole at any other time. And I mean anything: shooting, taekwondo, table tennis, diving, kayaking, etc. etc. etc. If someone can win a gold medal, I want to know when it's on, and I want the chance to watch it live. I will even watch a rich person ride a horse. Into my veins, please.
2. I want to watch the U.S. in all team sports. From basketball to beach volleyball to water polo, if the U.S. is playing in any round, I'm all in. This is a safe space for wild, unchecked patriotism.
3. If a sport is just generally awesome, I'll make an exception to the two rules above. As an example, rugby sevens was instituted in 2016, and it's the perfect Olympic sport. The Americans have a team, but I want to know the schedule of literally every match in the short period when it's on, because it's great and I'll gladly kill the hours watching Tonga play Fiji. In other high-profile sports like men's soccer, when there's no U.S. team, I'm still interested in knowing the match-ups; thus, those are on the spreadsheet.
4. I want to know the exact times when an event is on. Period. Yes, even if it's 2:30 a.m. on the east coast. I need that live fix because replay is almost always bad, but it's especially bad when it comes with long, saccharine profiles that include 35 shots of cornfields set to twinkly music when actual sports could be on. The other huge benefit of this is that if you're watching online on NBCOlympics.com, which you should be, you'll know which events are available for replay if you've missed it while sleeping or having a life. (I don't recommend either.) To NBC's credit, full event replays for literally every event are available on their site.
Finally, the exact times have to be east coast...a normal human being cannot constantly translate from Tokyo time or that human's brain will break. I have done this hard work for you.
Using those principles, I created a comprehensive spreadsheet in 2016, and have now remade it for 2020. It goes day by day, letting you know the exact time you can see each event. You can easily browse by day or by sport. Here's that link again:
Armed with this, you can then proceed to your favorite "How and Where to Watch" guide (NBC's own guide is probably the best, including for people watching on cable, but honestly, just watch it all online at NBCOlympics.com, where literally every event except U.S. men's basketball is streaming for free, and which also includes simulstreams of all the NBC channels), and you'll be set for the entire two weeks.
It all starts Friday with the opening ceremonies. Enjoy your Olympics, try to ignore COVID for a while, and if you get lost in the chaos, the American Olympic MasterSheet will be there for you like a warm embrace.