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The Summer Olympics are here — whether Tokyo is ready for them or not

The Japanese capital is under a state of emergency as vaccination rates lag. Also: Cubs-Cardinals, White Sox-Brewers and a Bucks-Suns climax. This You Gotta See.

A lonely scene at Tsujido Station in Fujisawa, Japan.
A lonely scene at Tsujido Station in Fujisawa, Japan.
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

On July 19, 1980, the Summer Olympics opened in Moscow with 66 nations — led by the United States — boycotting because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The Games weren’t televised in this country, replaced by an eerie two-week hole in the sports calendar.

So consider the 2021 Tokyo Games — officially, still the 2020 Tokyo Games — the strangest Olympics many of us will have ever seen. It is, of course, a matter of COVID-19. Already, multiple non-U.S. athletes and at least one volunteer have tested positive inside the Olympic Village. And at least one American, tennis player Coco Gauff, has tested positive. According to NPR, “more than 45 people affiliated with the Games” — most of them contractors — have tested positive this month. The Japanese capital lags behind the U.S. and much of the world in vaccination rates, and the city is under its fourth state of emergency since the start of the pandemic.

As they say: What could go wrong?

The theme for Friday’s opening ceremony at Tokyo’s National Stadium is “United by Emotion,” but many — perhaps most — athletes will not march in the Parade of Nations and there won’t be any fans allowed. The warm bodies in the stands will belong to sponsors, dignitaries, International Olympic Committee members and the like.

Again: kind of strange. At least there will be televised replays of all events for those who aren’t vampires or worse — annoying get-up-and-go types. Did we mention the opening ceremony starts at 5:55 a.m. CDT? No, thanks.

Here’s what’s happening:

Chicago White Sox v Minnesota Twins
Lance Lynn, not Shohei Ohtani.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

MON 19

Twins at White Sox (4:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

Shohei Ohtani takes the hill for the Sox in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Twins. Wait, did we say Shohei Ohtani? Sorry, should’ve been Lance Lynn.

Cubs at Cardinals (7:15 p.m., ESPN, Marquee)

The Cubs’ rivals are no better off in the standings, but they’re more inclined to keep their roster together and stay in the fight (see: “Losing With Dignity” on Page 132 of the “Cardinals Way” manual).

TUE 20

Twins at White Sox (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

The Sox were 10-2 against the Twins in the season’s first half, outscoring them 91-47. No need to start making things more exciting now.

2021 NBA Finals - Game Five
Antetokounmpo throws down a lob in Game 5.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Suns at Bucks, Game 6 (8 p.m, Ch. 7)

Phoenix fans can count to 10 until they’re blue in their faces. At the end of the day, all Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has to do is count to four.

WED 21

Olympic women’s soccer: U.S. vs. Sweden (7:30 a.m., 5 p.m., NBCSN)

The only time since November 2019 when our women’s team failed to win was three months ago against Sweden — fifth in FIFA’s world rankings — which led deep into an eventual 1-1 draw in Stockholm.

D.C. United at Fire (7 p.m., Ch. 9)

It’s not just a dirty rumor: The Fire — yes, the Fire — recently won two games in a row. Let’s see you top that, Olympics.

Cubs at Cardinals (7:15 p.m., ESPN, Marquee)

Adam Wainwright makes career start No. 44 against the Cubs, the opponent he has faced more than any other. In related news, Wainwright is pretty dang old.

THU 22

Bucks at Suns, Game 7 (if necessary; 8 p.m., Ch. 7)

Can Chris Paul complete the coronation comeback? Worst case, he moves up the best-player-never-to-win-a-title list. (Not much of a consolation prize, but it’s the best we can do.)

FRI 23

Olympics: opening ceremony (5:55 a.m., 6:30 p.m., Ch. 5)

It’s a tradition that dates back to the very first Olympic Games in the 8th century B.C.: asking why in the hell the opening ceremony doesn’t come before the competition starts.

Diamondbacks at Cubs (1:20 p.m., Marquee)

If fans in the desert don’t get their NBA title, at least they can take comfort in their soon-to-be-100-loss baseball team.

White Sox at Brewers (7:10 p.m., NBCSCH)

Some of us are old enough to remember a long-ago time when these teams waged frequent, sometimes ornery battles as division rivals. If you don’t know, ask Phil Garner and Terry Bevington about it.

SAT 24

Olympic swimming (7 p.m., Ch. 5)

The men’s and women’s 400-meter individual medleys and the men’s 400-meter freestyle are highlighted today in this sport we care about — a crazy lot — every four years.

Australia v United States
LaVine is surrounded by roster chaos on Team USA.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

SUN 25

Olympic men’s basketball: U.S. vs. France (5 a.m., Peacock, 11:15 a.m., Ch. 5)

Two words sums up the state of the American squad: “compromised roster.” At least Zach LaVine has plenty of experience with that.

Red Stars at Gotham FC (4 p.m., Paramount+)

Between them, the teams have seven players on Olympic duty. But who needs Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Carli Lloyd, anyway?

White Sox at Brewers (6:08 p.m., ESPN)

Look, just because the Cubs can’t beat the Brewers, that doesn’t mean the Sox can’t.