Barring another postponement, Friday's opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics will launch competitions overshadowed by a pandemic that has already forced a major delay, has interfered with the pageantry ahead of the Games, and will keep spectators from the stands and prevent some athletes from competing at all.
For casual observers in the United States, excitement and anticipation are hard to find as the Olympic Games vie for attention with dire domestic and international headlines.
"We've hardly heard much about it," Kevin Watson of Alexandria, Virginia, told VOA. "It's already been a letdown, with few interviews with the athletes or TV commercials to promote the sports."
Even before the pandemic, primetime ratings for the Summer Olympics had been declining.
Data compiled by Zeta Global in New York indicated that 60% of Americans were not interested or excited about the Tokyo Games. And at least 45% were not even looking forward to them.
According to the Zeta Global website, the reasons included last year's postponement of the Games, less desire to sit in front of the TV after a year of lockdown, and the barring of spectators at the events.
"Since there won't be spectators to watch, cheer, jeer and shout in the stands behind the competitors, that makes the coverage boring," Alex Willman in Carlsbad, California, said in a VOA interview. "The best part of any sporting event with a large audience is to watch their reaction to the scores."
Eliot Greenwald said he hadn't paid much attention to the run-up to the Olympics. The avid sailor from Bethesda, Maryland, said he'd probably get more interested in the events once they began, especially watersports like sailing and diving.
With some of the athletes testing positive for the coronavirus in Tokyo, some people think the Games should be postponed again.
"I love the Olympic Games, but I don't think they should be happening now," Barry Hunter, a boxing trainer at Headbangers Gym in Washington, told VOA by phone. He added that because of the pandemic, "the average person in the U.S. is not as excited about them as they normally would be."
"They seem less important when there's a pandemic going on around the world," said Louise Korver, who lives in Huntersville, North Carolina.
However, Jeff Shell, the chief executive of NBCUniversal, the major U.S. television network that is broadcasting most of the Olympics, thinks the time is right for the Games to begin.
NBC is airing 7,000 hours of coverage across its multiple television networks. Shell told a virtual conference this week that the Tokyo Games could be the most profitable Olympics in NBC's history.
Some fans are eager
The lack of enthusiasm is far from universal. Some Americans can't wait to watch their favorite sports.
Luisa Handem Piette in Londonderry, New Hampshire, said she would be among those glued to the TV watching the Olympics. "The U.S. audience will be much larger than anticipated," she said in a phone interview with VOA.
Bob Mandau, in Chesterland, Ohio, said he "welcomes the Olympics as a much-needed break from the negative politics on TV."
Meanwhile, Rick Kinney from Wellesley, Massachusetts, said Americans like him would watch the Olympics because "people like a feel-good story about how hard the athletes worked to get to the Games."
Sam Doering is on the swim team at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. She will be following American Katie Ledecky, one of the world's top swimmers and a favorite for top medals at the Games.
"I think it's going to be fantastic watching Ledecky, and hopefully other U.S. swimmers, do well in the swimming competitions," she said. "And hearing the national anthem being played after they've won the medals is really cool."
Of all the events, women's gymnastics is projected to be the most popular with American viewers. Zeta Global predicted 33% of the people interested in the Olympics would be focusing on that competition.
Ashley Umberger, owner and head coach at North Stars Gymnastics Academy in Boonton, New Jersey, said she thought the U.S. women's team "is going to be the one to watch" as Americans tune in to watch Simone Biles, the top-ranked female gymnast, “who is really breaking barriers."