Congratulations, readers. By clicking on our preview of the
2021 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and maybe even looking forward to watching this summer’s Olympic Games, you are defying some very, very influential people who spend a lot of time and money telling North Americans what to think. When it comes to the upcoming Olympics, sports-news readers are not allowed to think happy thoughts.
The mainstream media clearly does not want the Tokyo Olympics to take place in 2021. Failing that, fans of the Olympic Games are to feel very, very guilty for watching and enjoying them. Advocates (or anti-advocates) in the guise of news reporters have spent months publishing “TOKYO OLYMPICS DOOMED” headlines that echo last July and August’s news cycle prior to the 2020-21 NCAA football season. You know, the season that was “DOOMED,” or at least “cancelled,” but which happened anyway.
I considered a parody lede, “Will someone pretty please cancel the Olympic Games?” to be read in the voice of a young, petulant Luke Skywalker’s “But I wanted to go get pppoOOOWWWweeerrrr con-VER-terrrrs!” Then articles like this one from Quartz starting crushing Google, and I realized that a parody is no fun if it repeats what’s already in a headline. You can catch the vibe more by rearranging the first 4 words slightly. “What would it take to cancel these Olympics? Gaslighting won’t do the job?”
In case it seems like a pro-sports propaganda trope that WagerBop should treat negative Tokyo Olympics coverage as plain disinformation, here’s a chart of active Japanese coronavirus cases that may surprise you:
Now, obviously those 2 “peaks” are a problem (not to leave out Japan’s actual COVID-19 numbers, either, we’ll get to that) and a full-scale Olympic Games full of tourism could lead to an even worse wave of infections and another giant spike in coronavirus cases. That’s not an acceptable cost for hosting the Olympics, but happily, the Japanese government already ruled it out months ago.
The fact that Japan’s coronavirus cases have been dropping for several weeks is not proof that COVID-19 has been defeated as a health threat to the Japanese people, or indeed to visiting athletes and volunteers. But it’s striking that almost no positive stories about Japan’s so-far successful battle to eliminate the coronavirus pandemic in spring ’21 have popped up on western phones since the debate over cancelling or holding the Games erupted.
Japan’s total coronavirus caseload is well under 7 figures, a statistic that 10+ U.S. states wish was possible, even though many more people live on the islands of Japan than in Ohio. At the same time, prep, college, and professional sports are being held safely in most state-side locations. Attendance is still restricted in hot spots.
The other good news (that you’re only getting from this hybrid sports news/handicapping blog for reasons that would have seemed unfathomable 10 years ago, and sort of still do) is that Tokyo always has a “COVID-19 kill-switch” in its back pocket, the decision to ban spectators from the
2021 2020 Olympics altogether. Mainstream blogs have covered that story, of course, but use it as just another “OLYMPICS DOOMED” style of angle while ignoring the enormous double-standard at work.
If no-attendance events worked for Major League Baseball in the height of the pandemic, no-attendance Olympic sports can be executed safely in Japan in 2021, a Plan B that’s extremely unlikely to cause a COVID spike. It hasn’t caused one anywhere else.
While such a draconian move would be sad in the short term, the Olympic Games rely on crowd participation far less than other brand-name sporting events. Crowds for events like swimming, diving, water polo, track & field (now called “Athletics”), and even volleyball are clapping automatons in the background, rarely shown on camera and 100% helpless to affect the action.
IOC events like Curling already forbid an audience to react loudly, and some Olympic competitions have banned spectators as a rule, like the old Figure-Eight technical routines for skaters. Live throngs can create the illusion of on-field passion even when teams are going through the motions, giving dull COVID-19 era games a depressing “dry run” quality without cheering and booing. But we know Olympians are passionate and proud to be competing in the Games. A quiet, “intimate” Summer Olympics (or Winter Olympics) could be a mind-bogglingly tense and suspenseful watch for TV viewers.
In other words, despite the tireless, noble efforts of CNN and NPR, the Games of the XXXII Olympiad will bring joy to human beings on 6 continents this summer. What a drag, eh?
Thankfully, a few falteringly positive Tokyo Olympics stories have begun to peek through the rubble, just in time for the 1st legit, noteworthy odds-spread on the
2021 2020 Olympics from the offshore gambling market Bovada Sportsbook.
Tokyo Olympics Betting Odds: An Incomplete Early List of Events at Bovada
A pet peeve of mine is when prognosticators constantly refer to their advance previews as way too early looks at sporting events. Especially if it’s a betting editorial!
There’s no such thing as way too early handicaps of sports gambling odds, since the best bet on the board can always change, and can be determined at any point once markets are posted by a sportsbook. Gambling on futures odds in advance, i.e. “for the future” isn’t necessary and isn’t always the right thing to do, but it’s every bit as legitimate as the tactic of waiting until 2 days before kickoff.
Then again, trying to wager before the odds are out would indeed be jumping the gun, and the odds-managers of Bovada Sportsbook think it’s way too early to put out a full spread of odds on the Tokyo Olympics. Soccer, baseball, and golf are just 3 of the marquee events currently missing from Bovada’s markets, but never fear, there are plenty of interesting numbers up on the board already.
Overall Gold Medals: Team USA vs The World
Team USA: (-900)
Any Other Country: (+500)
Beg pardon on what could be a deceptive headline. Bovada Sportsbook’s odds on “the field” vs Team USA at the
2021 2020 Summer Olympics must be read carefully, as the world-famous sportsbook is not about to offer 5/1 odds on the world winning more 1st place medals than the United States. (Apart from the USA not being that exceptional in every sport, think of the semantics also – the United States are certainly in the world.)
Instead, the gambling market allows clients to “condense” the underdogs into a batch of hopefuls, any of whom could pay-off the wager with a surprise medal count. You can bet individually on China at (+600), Russian Olympic Committee at (+2000), or Japan at 60/1 odds, or any (not “all combined”) underdog that prevails pays off at (+500) in the other style of market. Either way, the Yanks are expected to dominate in more events than not, leading us to a recurrent theme of betting odds on Tokyo’s basketball brackets.
Men’s Basketball at the Tokyo Olympics: Gold Medal Odds
Czech Republic +15000
“I was supposed to write 4 pages of dialog,” explained Kevin Smith once, “but I went home and wrote 40 pages, overcompensating because I grew up fat.”
WagerBop won’t begin to speculate on the childhoods of state-side hoops oddsmakers, but it does appear that Las Vegas (and its offshore satellites) could be overcompensating for mistakes made in the past, refusing to credit the NBA with employing a league-wide batch of ballers who can whip any EuroLeague roster you want to name. Only the top tier of NBA cagers, or at least the United States’ potential ability to recruit them for the Summer Games, seem to be of any concern to bookmakers.
Otherwise, why would Team Canada be offered at 100-to-1 gold medal odds? Just about the entire Canadian squad will be comprised of NBAers, and of course, there’s only 1 other Olympic basketball team we can say that about – the gold-medal favorites.
And it’s not as if Canada’s team is a bunch of scrubs from the NBA’s “bubble”-baller circuit. Andrew Wiggins is a long-time 20 point man for Golden State and Minnesota. R.J. Barrett, also on the Habs’ training squad, has had a marvelous 2-year debut in the NBA and shot above 40% from beyond the arc for the Knicks this year.
No, a (-300) line on Team USA isn’t “disrespectful” to the National Basketball Association, in fact 1-to-3 on the United States is a very reasonable line for Bovada to run with while Las Vegas waits to see how many NBA superstars will sign-up to wear the Stars & Stripes. (So far, apart from a disdainful decline from LeBron James and James Harden’s injury problems, it’s going well for the USA.)
FIBA-style games also pose a different set of challenges than most North American-born NBA players are used to, and Canada’s extremely long gold-medal odds can be explained to an extent by the summer Olympic field’s wide open status in Men’s Basketball. Qualifiers will be played hurriedly over the next few weeks, and Canada’s Q-group includes a strong lineup from Greece. There’s no guaranteed spot in Tokyo for Team Canada, with 24 nations vying for 4 remaining slots in the Summer Olympics round-robin.
Not to overlook teams with outstanding NBA players matched with a bunch of FIBA veterans, either, and it’s noteworthy that a few such squads (Australia, Spain) are already in the field. Serbia, however, is an 8-to-1 gold medal pick without having qualified already. At least the Orlovi are in a “soft” group with the Dominican Republic and Philippines, making speculators confident that The Joker and his serious cager-comrades will arrive in the Far East.
Beating a strong Team USA is all about ceiling of performance. Of all major domestic leagues, the NBA comes closest to realizing the biggest myth in American sporting culture – that the worst player on the worst NBA/NFL/NHL team is superior to the very best player from an alternate, foreign league. Non-NHL players led the 2021 IIHF World Championship in goal scoring, and we’re pretty sure that the best CFL quarterback could out-play Ryan Leaf. But has there ever been a career EuroLeague player with the raw ability to dominate the floor against veteran NBA lineups? If the scenario could ever said to have taken place, it was at the Athens Olympics where Team USA fell apart with dissention, or at a FIBA World Cup against some motley squad of D-league roster choices.
In other words, if Team USA is deep enough and coachable enough at the
2021 2020 Summer Olympics, every team that doesn’t have an NBA-level ceiling can kiss the gold medals goodbye. We can’t predict Team Canada won’t have a squad that could beat Team USA at least once in a 5-game series, and it only takes once in the medal round.
I’ll take the bet at $100 payoff on the dollar.
Women’s Basketball Odds at the Summer Olympics
USA (W) -1200
Australia (W) +1000
Spain (W) +2000
France (W) +2500
Serbia (W) +3000
Belgium (W) +3500
Canada (W) +4000
China (W) +10000
Japan (W) +10000
Nigeria (W) +25000
South Korea (W) +50000
Puerto Rico (W) +100000
Disparity reigns supreme in Women’s Basketball, for which Team USA is a 1-to-12 favorite to win gold. That means bookmakers believe it’s 4 times less likely that the distaff Stars & Stripes cagers will be knocked-off the middle podium this summer.
One reason is that women’s sports does not create as many big-money contractual conflicts and red tape for superstars, and another is that women have a record of loyalty to their national teams in various sports against which men pale in comparison.
Imagine that LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Harden were always 100% locks to play for the United States in big international tournaments. The Olympic basketball futures odds we just previewed in the above section would look quite different.
Australia could put a starting-5 on the court that’s made up entirely of WNBA talent, helping the Aussies to a 10/1 underdog line on the gold medals. But there’s a wider gap between the top and and the middle-tier of WNBA talent pools than between NBA superstars and ham-and-eggers.
No one is to be blamed for not taking an insane-risk, penny-payoff line like Team United States’ (-1200) odds to win gold.
But it’s also not an illogical betting line. Any roster that includes Brittany Griner, Nneka Ogwumike, and Kelsey Plum is a peach.
Summer Olympics Odds: Softball Gold Medal Futures
USA (W) -150
Japan (W) +140
Canada (W) +1200
Australia (W) +3300
Mexico (W) +4000
Italy (W) +20000
Softball at the Olympic Games has a curious backstory, leading to perhaps the weirdest set of futures odds on the
2021 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Team USA softball has a marked athletic advantage on the field, to go with the edge in experience posed by its All-Star roster of Little League veterans (baseball and softball) and NCAA World Series winners. The program dominated softball at the Summer Olympics from to 1996 to 2004, winning key ballgames by scores like 11-1 with “mercy” rules ending some contests after 4 innings. But the team’s take-no-prisoners mojo soon proved to be its undoing, in far worse ways than simply losing a ballgame or a single gold medal.
When the 2008 Summer Olympics began as just another romp for Team USA softball, the IOC (International Olympic Committee) decided it had seen enough Stars & Stripes ballplayers bawling for blood as opponents labored to score a single run. Soon, the United States Women’s Softball Team was hit with a devastating double-whammy. On the diamond, Team Japan mounted an upset bid and whipped the United States 3-1 in the gold-medal game. Then, the IOC confirmed that it would be relegating softball to “exhibition” and “discontinued Olympic sport” status, aka removing Women’s Softball from the medal table at Summer Olympics events until other nations began to catch-up to the Yanks. As if that hadn’t been happening already.
It’s tempting to pick host Japan to upset Team USA again in 2021, but it’s very rare that gamblers get to wager on a near-1/1 odds favorite with the historical success of United States softball at the Olympics. Unless the Japanese and other rival programs have made cosmic leaps-forward while USA Softball sat on its laurels for 12 years (fat chance), Bovada’s softball offer is like finding 1/1 odds on Kenya to win a distance race.
Betting Odds on Other Sports at the Olympics
Due to qualifying cycles and roster selections postponed by COVID-19 precautions, there are marquee Summer Olympics sports on which bookmakers are still hesitant to put out handicaps for Tokyo
2021 2020 as of mid-June. We’ll get to the “MIA” list on scroll.
For now, here’s a few notes on the “best of the rest” Summer Olympics odds already available at Bovada Sportsbook (and elsewhere very soon).
If you’re looking for an Olympic event with parity in the field, Men’s and Women’s Volleyball is the sport of choice. A total of 7 teams from the 2 fields are offered at 5/1 or shorter odds to win gold, with Team USA boasting odds no longer than (+550).
Water Polo is also evenly-matched according to Las Vegas, except for the USA women, who are drawing action on a 1-to-3 futures line which mirrors the Yankee softball team and Men’s Basketball team.
There are exactly 7 “Athletics” markets on the Bovada board as of June 17, even if you define “markets” as per their atomized state of 1 prediction + 1 outcome + 1 bet. Single performer Galen Rupp of the United States is drawing Men’s Marathon wagers with no other options on the ledger, even though 10/1 odds on Rupp aren’t optimistic of gold. A quartet of Americans are offered at shorter odds to win the Men’s Shot Put and Men’s 110 Meter Hurdles events, but Tom Walsh of New Zealand sneaks in the former market at 3-to-1 and Team Jamaica’s Rasheed Broadbell is a Hurdles pick at 6/1.
Previews of Olympic events like running, shot-put, and high-jump are typically condensed into “personality profiles” of 1 athlete at a time, making it less likely that recreational bettors will be familiar with the entire Athletics field at this stage.
It’s doubtful that Bovada’s analysts have only handicapped 7 track & field competitors, but the sportsbook is laying a rail by allowing casuals to pick from names that (there’s at least a chance) they’ve heard of as of a month prior to the Games.
The acrobatic Hannah Roberts is also offered at (-150) as a “singular” betting market to win the Women’s BMX Freestyle.
Oh, and don’t ask to me to handicap Rugby Sevens, especially since I confused it with a card game the first time I heard about it.
Tokyo Olympics: List of Betting Odds Not Yet Released
To my knowledge, none of these Tokyo events can be found offered at sports betting sites as of 5 weeks ahead of the Olympic Games, but readers (and experienced international-sports sharks especially) can feel free to correct that in the comments below. We’re eagerly awaiting odds (and many Qualification results) on:
Men’s 100-Meter Dash
Men’s and Women’s Decathlon
Swimming and Diving
Skateboarding (Hooray! Well…not that the odds are late.)
We’ll be happy to update this preview of any of the above markets appear online over the next week. Otherwise, look for odds, predictions, and recommended bets on the above Summer Olympics sports on other WagerBop URLs in the weeks to come.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.
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