When do the 2021 Olympics start? What new events will there be in Tokyo? Here's what you need to know about Summer Olympics

Tom Schad
USA TODAY

The Tokyo Olympics are once again just around the corner.

After a yearlong postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Games are set to kick off later this summer in Tokyo, despite the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and lingering concerns in Japan. Though the Olympics will be taking place in 2021 due to the postponement, they will continue to be officially branded as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Here's everything else you need to know about when the Olympics will start, the schedule for this year's premier events and how you can watch Simone Biles, Katie Ledecky and the rest of Team USA's stars compete for gold.

Are the Olympics still happening?

Yes. Although much of Japan is under a state of emergency due to COVID-19, and polls indicate that the majority of the Japanese public would prefer that the Games be canceled, organizers continue to say the event will go on as scheduled this summer.

The International Olympic Committee has said it is now in the "operational phase" of planning, which means it is beginning to make final preparations on the ground for the hosting of the Games. And Dick Pound, the IOC's longest-serving member, told The London Evening Standard in late May that only "Armageddon" could stop the Tokyo Olympics from being held at this point.

When do the Olympics start?

The Tokyo Olympics will begin on Friday, July 23, with the opening ceremony at Tokyo's Olympic Stadium. 

The opening ceremony will take place at 8 p.m. local time in Japan, which will be 7 a.m. ET in the United States. NBC will broadcast the entire opening ceremony live, with coverage slated to begin at 6:55 a.m. ET. 

This file photograph taken on April 28, 2021, shows a general view of the Olympic rings lit up at dusk on the Odaiba waterfront in Tokyo.

What is the Olympics schedule?

The bulk of the Summer Olympics will span a total of 17 days, from the opening ceremony on July 23 to the closing ceremony on Sunday, August 8. (A handful of baseball, softball and soccer games are slated to be held on July 21 and July 22.)

In total, the Tokyo Games will feature 339 events across 33 sports.

Some of the most popular events will open competition right after the opening ceremony. Swimming races will run from July 24 through August 1. Gymnastics team finals will occur on July 26 (men) and July 27 (women), with all-around competition and individual events to follow. And track and field competition will start July 30.

Will there be fans at the Olympics?

At this point, it seems unlikely.

Olympic organizers announced this spring that international fans would not be allowed to attend the Tokyo Games this summer, while leaving open the possibility that a number of Japanese spectators might still be able to come. But given the situation with COVID-19 in Japan, organizers may decide to hold the Olympics behind closed doors.

An official decision on local fans is expected in June.

"There are many people who are saying that for the Olympic Games we have to run without spectators, although other sports are accepting spectators," said Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.

"So we need to keep that in mind. We need to avoid that the local medical services are affected. We need to take those things into consideration before agreeing on the spectator count.”

What are the new sports at the Olympics?

There will be six new sports at the Tokyo Olympics, four of which will be making their Olympic debut: Karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing.

The other two sports, baseball and softball, are returning to the Olympic program after previously being cut.

There will also be several new events in existing sports, such as 3-on-3 basketball and mixed-gender relays in swimming and track and field, among other sports.

Contributing: The Associated Press