Olympics

'Super Saturdays' to highlight schedule for Tokyo Olympics

by Dan Orlowitz

Staff Writer

Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics unveiled the competition schedule on Tuesday, giving fans hoping to attend the games their first opportunity to plan their itineraries.

Tokyo 2020 sports director Koji Murofushi walked a full news conference through the highlights of the marquee event, which will run from July 24 to Aug. 9.

“We will have 17 exciting days with a record 33 sports and 339 events,” Murofushi said. “Every day except for the opening and closing days, we will have about 20 gold-medal events. The schedule has a lot of excitement, not just in Tokyo but in venues across Japan.”

The competition will begin two days before the July 24 opening ceremony, with softball and women’s soccer players taking to the field on July 22.

“With the schedule announced, we can finally begin preparations,” said Japan softball coach Reika Utsugi, whose team will play at the renovated Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium. “We can contribute to the recovery of (the Tohoku area) by performing well and encouraging people affected in those areas.”

Utsugi was not concerned with the announced 9 a.m. start of some softball games.

“For softball, 9 a.m. is early. But we have more than a year to prepare,” Utsugi said. “Softball doesn’t have a set time — you play until you win. Some teams will start early, some teams will start late, and we have to prepare for whatever conditions (we face).”

The penultimate day of competition, Aug. 8, will see a record 30 gold medals awarded in what organizers are dubbing a “Super Saturday.”

That includes the men’s basketball final, which will tip off at 11:30 a.m. at Saitama Super Arena. While the start time will benefit viewers in the United States, Murofushi said that international broadcasters were not directly consulted during the development of the schedule.

“We only consulted with OBS (Olympic Broadcast Services),” Murofushi said. “We were able to imagine the audience of each sport and consider that (with other factors) when making the schedule.”

The previous weekend will see 21 and 26 gold medals awarded, respectively, on another “Super Saturday” as well as a “Golden Sunday” on Aug. 1-2. This includes the popular men’s 100-meter final, which will take place at New National Stadium on the evening of Aug. 2.

Specialists in the 400-meter race will have several chances to medal — the schedule allows for runners in that discipline to compete in the mixed relay, individual race, and single-gender relay.

In addition to concerns regarding the previously announced 6 a.m. start to the Aug. 9 men’s and women’s marathon, which was pushed up to spare runners the worst of Tokyo’s notorious summer heat, Murofushi also fielded questions regarding the swimming competition, with many sessions beginning at 10:30 a.m. in a repeat of the criticized Beijing 2008 schedule.

“The International Olympic Committee and FINA (the International Swimming Federation) gave their permission (for the schedule),” Murofushi said. “Of course we got advice and opinions from athletes, but we need to look at the games as a whole. We need to consider local and global audience when adjusting the overall schedule.

“I think the schedule is balanced in a comprehensive way. The athletes, when they know the schedule in advance, can make adjustments. I’d like them to do their best.”

Japan men’s judo head coach Kosei Inoue, a gold medalist in the under-100-kg category at Sydney 2000, recalled his excitement watching other sports while serving as team captain during Athens 2004.

“When I was captain, I watched other (sports) after finishing mine, and I can’t forget the excitement I felt back then,” Inoue said. “I’m looking forward to that same excitement in Tokyo through watching the different sports.”

While a provisional schedule featuring day and night sessions for boxing was announced, individual weight class schedules were not disclosed due to the sport’s uncertain status for these Olympics.

The detailed schedule for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics is expected to be announced by this summer, when ticketing for that event will also begin.