Tokyo Olympics Set A Horrible Record

The Tokyo Olympics have set a concerning record.

By Apeksha Bagchi | Published

tokyo olympics

The Tokyo Olympics 2020, which had been postponed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, recently began on July 23. But apparently, the delay in commencing the prestigious sports event has not been instrumental in making people eager to watch the live telecast as the recently disclosed primetime ratings of the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics have been at an all-time low. 

As reported by Deadline, NBC has shared that the channel’s overall coverage of the opening night ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, which includes broadcast and online streaming of the event, only drew 17 million viewers as per preliminary figures. Though the company has not provided the accurate number of viewers separately for streaming and broadcast, even the combined figure is very less compared to the viewership numbers the opening night of the Rio Olympics received back in 2016. 

Reportedly, the Rio Olympics had the second-lowest opening that NBC saw i.e., 26.5 million total viewers after 2004 when the games took place in Athens and only drew 25.4 million. Many expected the severely delayed Tokyo Olympics to actually beat the all-time high record of the 2012 London Olympics which attracted a whopping total of 40.7 million viewers. But instead, the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is the lowest viewership number that NBC has ever seen in covering the games. 

olympic events

As per Deadline, the broadcast coverage of the Tokyo Olympics has been affected by cable, streaming, and social media as well as the fact that people are done with living indoors due to the pandemic and are more invested in getting outside now that they can instead of sitting down to watch the games. But it’s not only the COVID pandemic that taints this year’s games, which has been riddled with never-ending scandals and controversies. The latest in its list of controversies includes the firing of the creative director, Kentaro Kobayashi, of the opening ceremony after it was discovered that the comedian made antisemitic jokes back in 1998 during a comedy performance. 

The only good part about the viewership rating for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics is that the streaming audience on and the NBC Sports app has amped up. In comparison to the 2018 PyeongChang Opening Ceremony, it has increased by 76% and 72% compared to the 2016 Rio opening ceremony.


Despite the considerably low number of viewers, NBC has maintained its optimism and touted the Tokyo Olympics’ opening ceremony as the second-most-watched standalone entertainment telecast in the last year, coming only second to CBS’s explosive Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. The network has also shared that after the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics on NBC in 2018, the Tokyo Olympics’ opener has been the most-watched Friday night on broadcast TV. 

Currently, low viewership numbers and ongoings controversies aren’t the only things that plague the Tokyo Olympics. Apart from the concern-worthy soaring temperatures in Tokyo, the number of covid cases also continues to surge amongst those associated with the games which include Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs, Czech table tennis player Pavel Sirucek, as well as 10 support staff at the Olympics who recently tested positive.