Tokyo 2020 Olympics: which events are British viewers most interested in?

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
July 14, 2021, 9:18 AM UTC

The games are set to begin on 23 July

The summer of sport is set to continue following Euro 2020 and this year’s Wimbledon tournament with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in late July. The delayed games will feature 33 sports, with five additional sports added to the core 28 by hosts Japan.

With 339 separate events on offer across the 33 sports, YouGov asks British intending to watch the Olympic Games which sports and events they are most interested in watching.

Track and field sports

Taking home the gold as the most interesting Olympic sport overall among British viewers is athletics, with some 94% of those intending to watch the games interested in watching. This includes some six in ten (60%) “very interested” to see how the 48 events that make up athletics will play out. Perhaps unsurprising given Team GB’s previous athletics success, holding 205 medals in total with 7 from the 2016 games, putting Team GB third in the medal tables.

Of the other track and field sports, 68% are interested in watching the triathlon and 56% are interested in the tennis.

Depending on the outcome of the Euro 2020 competition, interest in the Olympic football may change but for now some 34% of viewers are interested in watching it – with interest perhaps predictably higher among men (42%) than women (25%).

New additions softball and baseball do not prove too popular, with just 16% and 14% of viewers interested in watching.

Aquatic sports and swimming

Eight in ten British viewers (79%) are interested in watching the 37 swimming events, meaning they take home the silver medal for second most popular event overall. Among the other aquatic and water sports, two thirds of viewers (66%) are interested in the diving, and another 65% are keen to watch the rowing. 

Nearly half (49%) are interested the slalom canoe, as are a similar proportion for the sprint canoeing. Also out on the water will be the various sailing teams, with 35% interested to watch them compete.

Artistic swimming (previously called synchronised swimming) does not garner the same interest as the wider swimming events, however, with 31% of viewers interested in this event,

Another new addition for the 2020 games – surfing – proves more popular than other new additions baseball and softball, with 34% of Olympic viewers expressed an interest in the sport’s Olympic debut on Shidashita Beach.

Cycling sports

The last Olympic event on the YouGov podium is Track Cycling, which takes the bronze with the interest of 73% of Brits planning on watching the Games. Including some 28% “very interested” in the 12 track cycling events. The various road cycling events follow closely behind at 62%.

Team-based bicycle relay racing – called Madison cycling – will also feature in the 2020 Games for the first time since the 2008 Beijing Games. With 47% of viewers interested in its return to the competition, Madison Cycling proves the most popular of the new and returning sports to Olympics this year.

BMX events are also set to be played, with 35% of viewers expressing interest the BMX racing, and a similar amount (30%) also interested in the new BMX freestyle (stunt and trick riding) which also debuts in this Games.

Equestrian events

Dressage proves to be the equestrian sport most British Olympic viewers are interested in, with six in ten (62%) interested to see if Team GB can retain the gold after wins in 2012 and 2016 individual dressage events.

A further 39% are interested in the eventing, and 27% are interested in the show jumping, which also netted Team GB a gold medal in 2016.

Gymnastics and other indoor sports

Over half (57%) are also interested in the artistic gymnastics, in which athletes perform short routines on different apparatus including the still rings and the pommel horse.

Rhythmic gymnastics, which features gymnasts performing on a floor with items such as hoops, balls, clubs, ribbon or rope, garners the interest of 51% of viewers, while 44% are interested in watching the trampoline gymnastics.

Indoor sport climbing is another of the five sports making an Olympic debut, and will feature three events. Around a third of viewers (36%) interested in watching Team GB field its new climbing athletes for the first time. A similar proportion (30%) are also interested in another of the new additions – skateboarding – which will feature park and street events. However, another of the new sports, 3 versus 3 basketball, is only of interest to 20% of viewers.

Martial arts

The final category of sports to be played in this year’s Games are the martial arts, which tend to be the sports least interesting to British viewers. The boxing is of interest to 38% of those planning on watching, the highest of the martial arts, followed by karate (36%), the final new addition to Tokyo’s Games. There is similar interest in judo (35%) and taekwondo (30%).

Approaching a quarter of people watching (23%) are interested in the clashing of sabres in the fencing events while the wrestling events are only of interest to 14% (freestyle) and 12% (Greco-Roman).

See full results here and here