Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Update Summer 2016
Thinking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, has me thinking back to the Rio Olympics. I was mesmerized by the incredible spectacle at the Rio Olympics – from running to swimming to gymnastics to basketball. It took a lot of time to watch, too! Competitions were running on three channels here in the U.S., and with a lot of fast-forwarding, I tried to catch as many competitions as possible. But nothing compares to being there in person.
One of the great stories in my family is the adventure that my grandmother and her sister (at the time, two single women) took in traveling in 1936 to Berlin to cheer on Jesse Owens and the U.S. Olympic team. They also took a side trip to Morocco with many twists and turns. Two smart, tough, adventurous women, with stories to share for the rest of their lives.
Speaking of tough, smart women, Tokyo elected their first female governor, Yuriko Koike, primarily to get the 2020 Tokyo Olympics construction and transportation projects on track. As the games closed in Rio, she accepted the Olympic flag in a stunningly gold Kimono. And despite pouring rain she was elegant and composed. Just to underscore that Japan is a land of wonderful but occasionally strange contrasts, the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, appeared in the same closing ceremony dressed up as Super Mario, the iconic Nintendo character from the well-known Mario Bros video games. Our local Japanese guides, and my partner Gary who has lived in Japan for seventeen years, were surprised and stunned. The wonders of Japan never cease.
All this underscores the vast preparations now underway for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. Japan already has a robust public transportation network, and is re-using some of the venues from the 1964 Tokyo Games. But the Olympics are much bigger now than in 1964, and Japan is investing hundreds of billions of yen in updating needed infrastructure. The cost of building seven temporary buildings for the games has already spiraled from $690 million to over $2.6 billion.
In addition to the classic sports competitions for which the Olympics are known , five new sports – representing 18 events and 474 athletes – were added to the 2020 program. Two new sports, skateboard and sports climbing, will occur in urban settings for a grittier, street-like environment. Two other new sports, baseball/softball and karate, will occur in more traditional Olympics venues. Finally, the surfing competition will show off Japan’s strong boarding culture: although Japan has relatively few sandy beaches, the extensive shores have many great surfing breaks.
Fittingly for Japan’s role in science and engineering, we expect to see some really great technologies at work at the next Olympics. Work has already begun on mag-lev (magnetic levitation) trains in part of Tokyo to replace the super-fast shinkansen (bullet) trains, and a standalone robot village for all of the non-human support that will be used throughout the games. There are also plans to use 3-D lasers to assist judging in some of the Gymnastics events.
Also consistent with Japan’s environmental focus and consumer electronics expertise, the metals for the medals – gold, silver, and copper (bronze) – will be derived from the recycling of cellphones and other electronic devices.
Finally, a quick note on tickets, packages, and pricing. These are developed and controlled by the host city, Tokyo, and typically are set two years before the games. We are monitoring this closely, and will publish any information about individual tickets and packages for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as soon as it is released.