The other events on the first Friday are the individual ranking rounds for men and women in archery at Yumenoshima Park. The six-strong British team includes Naomi Folkard who is competing in her fifth Games with the 18-year-old James Woodgate competing in his first Olympics. India will be hoping to build on their recent impressive World Cup displays.
That opening ceremony does not leave a lot of time for events on the first real day of competition although Britain’s rowers are quickly into action on the Sea Forest Waterway. The women’s quadruple sculls, Mathilda Hodgkins-Byrne, Hannah Scott, Charlotte Hodgkins-Byrne and Lucy Glover are a strong combination and Team GB expect another healthy haul of medals.
The opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium will be spectacular but has been shrouded in secrecy so far. Because of Covid restrictions fewer athletes than usual will be joining the parade of nations. As usual Greek athletes will lead the march behind the flags with the Americans and French last before the entry of the host Japanese team. Like the final event of the Games it will be a marathon and a lump in the throat is inevitable.
Charlotte Dujardin, who began riding horses as a two-year-old, is the most successful British dressage rider in history. The team event begins today and the 36-year-old is hoping to add another gold to the two she won in London and the one in Rio. Her horse Valegro has retired and Dujardin will be riding Renai Hart in Tokyo.
Back on the Sea Forest Waterway the women’s pairs heats feature two-time Olympic champion Helen Glover who is seeking to become the first British rower to compete at an Olympics after having children. Glover partners Polly Swann, who won silver in the women’s eight in Rio. The 35-year-old Glover gave birth to twins in January last year and to a boy in 2018.
The start of the men’s and women’s tennis competition at Ariake Tennis Park and all Britain will begin to will Andy Murray on to a third successive gold medal. Since Rio, of course, Murray has been beset by injury problems and his hip surgery two years ago means that winning gold will be a monumental task but with Murray nothing seems impossible. Win or lose, expect plenty of tears.
Britain’s men’s eights won gold in Rio five years ago and on Sunday morning they begin their quest for a repeat as the heats begin. Mohamed Sbihi, one of those medallists in Brazil, is competing in his third Games. It will be a difficult achievement to repeat Rio but the British team are confident they can triumph in what has been a successful event in the past.
Weather permitting, this day also sees the introduction of a new sport to the Games. Forty surfers from 17 different countries are taking part in the surfing competition at Tsurigasaki Beach. Kanoa Igarashi and Hiroto Ohhara are the home hopes in the men’s event and Mahina Maeda and Amuro Tsuzuki in the women’s. Not surprisingly, Americans and Brazilians are favourites for medals with Brazil’s Gabriel Medina looking hard to beat.
Britain is sending a team of 11 boxers – seven men and four women – to Tokyo and all expect to win medals. The women’s middleweight competition starts today and 2019 world champion Lauren Price has every chance of picking up a gold. “It has been my dream to compete at the Olympic Games since I was eight years old,” said the former Wales international footballer, who took gold in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, “so to finally have the opportunity is amazing.”
Yorkshire’s Tom Pidcock celebrates his 22nd birthday during the Games and he has high hopes in the cross-country mountain bike event. He has returned to racing after breaking his collarbone in a training crash. Pidcock recently won a World Cup event in the Czech Republic, comfortably ahead of rival Mathieu van der Poel, who has been making a name for himself in the Tour de France.
In the pool we will also get the chance to see Ariarne Titmus, a 20-year-old from Tasmania. Titmus is known as “The Terminator” and at the Australian trials swam the 200m and 400m freestyle faster than the great Katie Ledecky. As ever, the main rivalry in swimming will be between the Australians and the Americans, who have chosen the youngest squad in their history.
When Adam Peaty won in Rio it was the first gold medal at an Olympics by a male British swimmer for 24 years. The 26-year-old Peaty is a red-hot favourite to successfully defend his 100m breaststroke title at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Peaty is the world-record holder and an eight-time world champion.
Who can defeat the all-conquering Chinese at table tennis? This day in the Metropolitan Gymnasium sees the men’s and women’s singles round of 16 and Britain are represented by Chesterfield’s Liam Pitchford, who is in his third Olympics, and Tin-Tin Ho who is in her first. Ho is a 22-year-old medical student at the University of Nottingham and the pair have played mixed doubles for England, winning silver at the last two Commonwealth Games.
Great Britain’s men’s hockey team have only four players who competed in a disappointing Rio campaign and their captain, Adam Dixon, says they are ready to “ruffle some feathers”. The meeting with Germany in a Pool B game at Oi Hockey Stadium will be an acid test for the British men who famously won gold in 1988.
The football tournament started two days before the opening ceremony andthe women’s match against Canada will be a stiff test for a Great Britain squad under new coach Hege Riise. Riise won gold as a player with Norway in Sydney in 2000 and has a strong squad that includes 11 players from Manchester City, including Fifa’s 2020 player of the year Lucy Bronze. Gold for Bronze is a headline waiting to be written though the Americans may have something to say about that.
Naomi Osaka missed Wimbledon but the No 2-ranked woman in the world, who was born in Japan to a Haitian father and Japanese mother, would not miss Tokyo for the world. It would be a major shock not to see her reach the quarter-finals, especially in the absence of other leading women such as Serena Williams. It would be a shock too if Osaka didn’t go on to win gold.
Tao Geoghegan Hart did not defend his Giro d’Italia title this year. One reason was that he wanted to compete in Tokyo. Today he and former Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas compete in the men’s time trial. The 26-year-old Londoner has recovered from a bad crash in the Paris-Nice race and expects to be at the peak of fitness in time for Tokyo.
Katie Ledecky is the world’s best female swimmer and her best event, the 1500m freestyle, is now in the Olympic programme. The American will not be as dominant as she was in Rio but, at 24, she will still be the overwhelming favourite in the 1500m and in the 800m which she won by an astonishing 11 seconds back in 2016.
Great Britain’s women hockey players face a pivotal match in the competition against the strong Netherlands team in their quest to defend that gold medal. The British team includes Laura Unsworth, whose 276 caps make her the most experienced player in her country’s history. The young 16-strong British squad contains nine players making their first Olympic appearances but they look powerful enough to fight for medals.
Great Britain’s women kick off their Rugby Sevens programme at the Tokyo Stadium with high hopes of success although New Zealand, who they meet in the pool stages, will be favourites for the event. The Wasps pair Meg Jones and Celia Quansah are in the British squad. They are a same-sex couple but not the first to compete for Team GB – Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh won hockey gold in Rio.
Simone Biles, America’s phenomenon, is trying to become the first female gymnast in more than half a century to win consecutive all-around Olympic golds. This is expected to be one of the real spectacles of Tokyo and the 4ft 8in Biles, who won four medals in seven days in Rio, is set to be the biggest star of the Olympics.
It may be a good opportunity to watch one of the Olympic greats at the Nippon Budokan. Teddy Riner, who was born in Guadeloupe, is France’s star judoka. The 32-year-old Riner won gold in London and Rio in the +100kg category. Kokoro Kageura, one of the few to have beaten Riner, is the world champion and will have the whole of Japan in his corner.
Back in the pool Freya Anderson, a 20-year-old from Birkenhead, is a freestyle sprinter who has attracted plenty of attention since her 100m win in the world juniors in Indianapolis four years ago. Anderson won five golds at the Europeans in Budapest last year and will be eyeing at least a place in today’s 100m final.
The business end of any Olympics is track and field. It begins with a highlight, the men’s 10,000m final. Sam Atkin, from Grimsby, is Britain’s sole representative but Mo Farah has gone and his title is certainly Africa-bound. The Ugandan Joshua Cheptegei is the world champion and firm favourite.
Team GB, as usual, have medal prospects in sailing. This day seesthe men’s and women’s finals of the RS:X class. Both British windsurfers Tom Squires and Emma Watson are Olympic newcomers with 20-year-old Watson the youngest in the British squad. Britain have won 28 golds since sailing made its Olympic debut in Paris in 1900 and this team can ride that wave.
The Olympic Stadium will also see the final of the 4×400 mixed relay. Doha in 2019 was the first event of its kind. The men usually start and end the relay but that is not compulsory. In Doha the world-record holders USA beat Jamaica to gold. That will be a pointer in Tokyo with Britain hoping to mount a challenge in this fascinating event.
The race to decide who is the world’s fastest woman, the 100m final, pitches Jamaica’s Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, the second quickest woman in history after her recent 10.63 run in this event, against the likes of Britain’s Dina Asher-Smith, the 200m world champion. The flamboyant American Sha’Carri Richardson is banned and misses out .
Nine days of fencing come to an end with the men’s foil gold medal match at the Makuhari Messe Hall. The United States, France and Italy are the favourites for medals in the climax to the fencing programme. Londoner Marcus Mepstead hopes to make progress in the earlier individual event.
The BMX freestyle finals for men and women will see Britain’s Declan Brooks and Charlotte Worthington competing for medals at the Ariake Urban Sports Park. Worthington, from Manchester, is a real hope for a medal. She has won British and European titles in this freestyle event that is included in an Olympics for the first time.
Hideki Matsuyama will be a poster-boy in Japan after donning the Green Jacket in April following his win in the Masters. The final round in the men’s stroke play takes place at the Kasumigaseki Country Club and a nation is expectant. The first Japanese man to win the Masters and the first to win an Olympic golf gold would be a film script come to life.
The women’s doubles and the men’s singles finals bring an end to the badminton competition. Lauren Smith and Chloe Birch are the doubles partnership. The pair are hopeful in a competition expected to be dominated by Japanese players.
Back in the Olympic Stadium the final event of the day sees the women’s 5,000m final. Jess Judd, Amy-Eloise Markovc and Eilish McColgan are the strong British contingent with Judd and McColgan doubling up in the 10,000m. Liz McColgan’s 30-year-old daughter is in her third Olympics and has an outside chance of a medal in the shorter event.
Britain’s Emily Campbell won three golds at the recent European Weightlifting Championships and competes in the 87kg category. The 2018 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is in the same category as New Zealander Laurel Hubbard who becomes the first transgender athlete at a Games.
Away from the athletics stadium, British eyes will turn to the Enoshima Yacht Harbour where Giles Scott will be hoping to repeat his dominant display in Rio and retain the gold medal in the Finn class. Scott won in Rio with a day to spare and has six world titles as evidence that he will be a favourite again.
This will also be the moment Dina Asher-Smith hopes she can run into the history books. The world 200m champion is the fastest British woman ever with national records in both the 100m and 200m. The competition will be fierce and the margins for success and failure wafer-thin but the 25-year-old Blackheath & Bromley Harrier can provide Britain with one of its highlights in Tokyo.
Scotland’s Laura Muir has been the standout British hope in the 800m for some time but she has a new rival in a 19-year-old from Manchester, Keely Hodgkinson, who powered past her to win in the British Championships in her home city earlier this summer. The pair are likely to be medal contenders in this final.
The beginning of an eagerly-awaited heptathlon sees Britain’s Katarina Johnson-Thompson compete in her third Olympics. The Liverpudlian scored a British record 6,981 points on her way to a world title two years ago but has been hampered by injury problems which will put her gold-medal prospects in the balance.
Who will be the next Usain Bolt? The American Noah Lyles is convinced it will be him. Lyles has the stats to back him up. He is the reigning 200m world champion and his 19.74sec the fastest time this year. This day sees the final of the 200m and the 23-year-old from Florida looks unbeatable. TEam GB’s Adam Gemili is an outside prospect for a medal.
Some of the top women golfers in the world are in the first round of the women’s individual stroke play. Nelly Korda’s first major win in the Women’s PGA Championship put the American on top of the Tokyo rankings ahead of the South Koreans Ko Jin-young and Inbee Park. Melissa Reid and Jodi Ewart Shadoff are the British challengers in a field of 60.