Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s live coverage of the Olympic Games. We’re here to provide you with 24-hour rolling coverage of all the highs and lows and in-betweens of perhaps the strangest instalment since the very first in Athens in 1896. This is the “Tokyo 2020” of 2021. The Games that couldn’t happen a year ago because of Covid-19, and the Games many believe shouldn’t happen even now as the pandemic continues to cut a swathe through Japan. Signs of a fifth wave are everywhere in the host nation, where infection and death tolls are rising and vaccination rates remain low, and the capital will be under a state of emergency for the entirety of competition. That’s before mentioning the spiralling financial cost.
But, as International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said, “there is no Plan B”. And so, organisers have pressed on, and almost 80,000 athletes, officials, support staff and yes, us the media, have either arrived or will touch down imminently. The local mood is one of derision, to the point that one of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors, Toyota, announced it will not run Tokyo 2020-related adverts. In such an environment controversy already abounds, likewise with athletes taking the knee, super quick super spikes, and all the others which have unfortunately become something of Olympics tradition such as doping, corruption and the status of Russian athletes, some of whom will compete but under a neutral flag.
We will keep you up to date with all of this, and, of course, the actual sport. Across 16 days, in front of zero spectators, 339 gold medals will be won across 33 sports. For most athletes, many of whom have endured the difficult 12-month delay, just making it to Tokyo is an achievement. Getting to the start line without testing positive or becoming a close contact will be another feat in itself. Do that, and this Games – despite all of the above – represents the peak of so many sporting careers. Reputations will be realised, magnified and shattered, and new global stars made.
Every country approaches the Olympics differently, follows different athletes and teams and excels in different sports. Whether you are rooting for Team USA, Team GB, Australia, or any other, we will be here 24/7 for all the big moments and also many of the small ones too, covering everything off the field and on. We’ll be there for Ash Barty, Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, Dina Asher-Smith, Stephanie Gilmore, Kevin Durant, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Ariarne Titmus. We’ll keep you across the new sports as well as the blue riband events.
With support from colleagues in New York, Sydney and London, our coverage includes reports and excellent writing from our Guardian team in Tokyo. Sean Ingle, Justin McCurry, Andy Bull, Barney Ronay, Tumaini Carayol, Suzanne Wrack, Kieran Pender and Tom Dart are on the ground, plus expert analysis through the games from Greg Rutherford, Caroline Dubois and Ben Ryan – athletes and coaches who have been there and done that, and Dubois is there now.
Every day you can receive the best of the action along with the next day’s highlights straight to your inbox via our daily newsletter. Sign up here. We also have a complete schedule, rolling medals table, and full results. For planning, check out our highlights summary and venue guide.
But first, the opening ceremony! I’m here for all the build-up before my colleague Barry Glendenning will take you through the ceremony a little later on. Please do drop me a line via email or Twitter.