Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020

Officially entitled Games of the XXXII Olympiad, the Tokyo games of 2020 are amongst the most anticipated in many years, and with good reason; Japan has a strong heritage in putting on exciting and worthy games, and 2020 looks like being nothing less. The Tokyo 2020 Olympics will commence on Friday, 24th July 2020, with the closing ceremony scheduled for Sunday 9th August – the same day that will also see a total of 13 gold medal events. 

Tokyo city was selected as the official Olympics host city during the 125th IOC Session held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 7 September 2013. This will be the second time that Tokyo has hosted the Summer Olympic Games, the first being in 1964, and the fourth Olympics to be held in Japan.   Previous to the 2020 summer Olympics, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics of 1972 which was held in Sapporo, and once again in 1998 when Nagano was the host city. The 2020 Games will be the second of three consecutive Olympics to be held in East Asia, the first being the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang County, South Korea, and the forthcoming 2022 Winter Olympics which is due to be held in Beijing, China.

Tokyo was established as the host city following rounds of balloting of IOC member states in Buenos Aires, though it was far from certain that Japan would get the honour.  Following an exhaustive ballot system, none of the selected cities won over 50% of the votes in the first round, and Madrid and Istanbul were both tied for second place. The process continued with a run-off vote between these two cities was held to determine which would be eliminated, resulting in Istanbul going through against Tokyo. In the following final vote, there was a head-to-head contest between Tokyo and Istanbul, and the Japanese city was selected by 60 votes to 36, giving it the majority and, therefore, the contest.

Japan At the Olympics

Japan has embraced the notion of the 2020 Olympics, particularly since it has had a chequered past with the games; Japan first participated at the Olympic Games in 1912, and has competed at almost every Games since then, however, the nation was not invited to the 1948 Games because of ill-feeling following World War II, and it was part of the American-led boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. As a nation, Japan won its first medals in 1920, and its first gold medals in 1928. Japanese athletes have won 439 medals at the Summer Olympic Games with the most gold medals won in judo. Japan has also won 58 medals at the Winter Olympic Games, with wins occurring mostly in speed skating where they have amassed 21 in total and ski jumping in which they have won 21in total.

Setting the Infrastructure

Obviously hosting something a large and complex as an Olympic even is expensive, but the results focused and proficient mentality of the Japanese makes them want to showcase the best event that the world has seen.  While the Tokyo Organizing Committee, headed by former Prime Minister Yoshirō Mori, Olympic and Paralympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto is overseeing the preparations on behalf of the Japanese government, and ready to use the 400 billion Japanese Yen that has been set aside by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for the games.  The central Japanese Government has also been putting a number of major infrastructure developments in place to help both Olympic participants and visitors to the games get around the venues.

These works include a new railway line to link both major airports through an expansion of Tokyo train station, cutting travel time from Tokyo Station to Haneda from 30 minutes to 18 minutes, and from Tokyo Station to Narita from 55 minutes to 36 minutes. There are also plans to extend the Yurikamome automated transit line from its existing terminal at Toyosu Station to a new terminal at Kachidoki Station, passing the site of the Olympic Village, although the Yurikamome would still not have adequate capacity to serve major events in the Odaiba area on its own.

While Japan has already hosted the Summer Olympics, the 1964 stadium was deemed insufficiently large or well equipped to host the 2020 games, and as 2012, the Central Government were already calling for designs for a new stadium, even before the country had been awarded the games in the first place.  The winning design – submitted by Zaha Hadid Architects – was originally intended to seat a crowd of 80,000, though the government ultimately chose to scrap the Zaha Hadid design entirely, and chose a new design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, which was inspired by traditional Japanese temples and had a lower profile. Kuma’s design has a budget of ¥149 billion, and this was the one that was put in place.

Non-Centralised Events

But while there is a new stadium to house many of the sports, in line with all other previous Olympics, many of the events will be held at other, more appropriate venues.  In fact, the new stadium is intended to host only the opening and closing Olympic ceremonies, the athletics events, and the football finals.  All other events are due to be held at a number of existing venues around the so-called Heritage zone adjacent to the main event area, such as the Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the handball, Ryōgoku Kokugikan foe the boxing events, and Tokyo International Forum for the weightlifting.

The Tokyo Bay Area will host a total of 15 sports in thirteen venues, including the aquatics in Tokyo Aquatics Centre, beach volleyball in Shiokaze Park, archery in Yumenoshima Park, and the triathlon event in Odaiba Marine Park.  The Central Breakwater and Sea Forest Waterway are earmarked to host the equestrian eventing, rowing, and canoeing sprint.  Further out at around 8km from the central Olympic village, events such as the Equestrian dressage and jumping, the road cycling events including finish road races and time trials, modern pentathlon, golf, rugby, fencing and shooting.  The Japanese Government has been establishing an appropriate infrastructure to allow Olympic participants to travel to these areas quickly and have everything they need to complete their events when they get there.

New Sports and Old Sports

The 2020 Japanese games will see the introduction of new and additional events including 3×3 basketball, freestyle BMX and Madison cycling, as well as further mixed events. Under new IOC policies that allow the host organizing committee to add sports to the Olympic programme to augment the permanent “core” Olympic events, the Japan games will see karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding make their Olympic debuts. There will also be the return of baseball and softball, both removed from the summer games programme from 2008.   In total, the 2020 games will feature 339 events in 33 different sports, and encompassing 50 disciplines.

2020 Paralympics Events

The Paralympics which compliment the mainstream games commence on Wednesday 26th August and have a closing ceremony scheduled for Sunday 6th September. The Paralympics will cover 540 Events in 22 sports, including cycling events which will be split into road and track disciplines. Team events of goalball, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair basketball continue as men’s and women’s events, wheelchair rugby continues to be a mixed event for these games, while the 5-a-side-football will only be open to male competitors.  

New Paralympic Sports

In January 2014, the IPC began accepting bids for new sports to be added to the Paralympic programme, and following that, they have included amputee football, badminton, electric wheelchair hockey, powerchair football, and taekwondo. New disciplines were also proposed in existing events, including visually impaired match racing and one-person multi-hull in sailing, and 3-on-3 basketball in intellectually disabled and wheelchair classifications.

The Japanese establishment and people have embraced the notion of a new Tokyo Olympics and are determined to make these the best that the country has ever delivered, for both the competitors and the fans around the world.  With both Miraitowa as an emblem for the main Olympic event, and Someity promoting the Paralympics, the marketing campaign is well underway across the globe.  Ticket sales are already being handled by bespoke websites aimed at helping fans navigate to the right official site for their country to obtain official entry passes for the events that they want.

Finally, the 2020 Summer Olympics torch relay will run from 12 March until 24 July 2020 and the opening event. After being lit in Olympia, Greece, the torch will travel to Athens on 19 March. The Japanese leg will begin in Fukushima, and will end in Tokyo’s New National Stadium, the main venue of the 2020 Olympics. It will visit Japanese cities, including all 47 prefectural capitals.  The Paralympic torch relay will take place on a smaller scale than the main Olympic version, starting in Tokyo, with local flames to be lighted through Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures where events of the games will be held.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics are already shaping up to be the global event of the year, and it is something that you can be part of too.

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