It’s 12 months and counting until what promises to be the greatest show of them all. While Japan has previously staged three Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020 will ooze sophistication in many ways we’ve never seen before.
It begins with the Japanese capital itself. Tokyo is part of a wider metropolitan area that’s home to an astonishing 37.5 million people, and is an enchanting, fast-paced city, a hotbed of diverse neighbourhoods boasting an unbeatable food scene and punctuated by incredible sights and stunning architecture – all connected by a comprehensive public transport system.
It’s a city in which old and new meet seamlessly, on a mission to convince the world again that no one can do it better; a city in which cleanliness is part of the culture, where community clean-ups are the norm and public transport is spotless. A city frequently listed among the world’s safest.
Tokyo leads the way – again
Tokyo 1964 didn’t just transform the city; it also helped to shape future editions of the greatest show on earth. The world was simply blown away at how sport’s golden event was taken into a futuristic, hi-tech mode virtually overnight. At the 1964 Olympic Games, computers were used to split competitors by hundredths of a second, and, for the first time, live TV pictures were beamed worldwide to millions of avid sports fans.
For inventiveness and technological ingenuity, Japan will take some beating this time around, too.
On show will be fleets of driverless cars; facial recognition will be used on a grand scale; and robots will assist with luggage at airports.
There will even be a six-foot robot that can show passengers directions and recommend tourist attractions in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
The host city’s sustainability credentials are also on show: precious metals have been extracted from used smartphones and other electronic devices to produce the medals that will be presented to the athletes.
With Tokyo’s weather expected to be hot and humid around the time of the Games, heat-blocking road surfaces that can reduce the road temperatures by eight degrees will be used.
It all adds up to Japan being one of the coolest places on the planet to be next summer.
The people of Japan are embracing the opportunity with as much enthusiasm as they did 55 years ago. More than 7.5 million people had signed up for the ticket lottery by the end of May 2019, when the first phase closed, resulting in 3.22 million tickets being snapped up by eager fans. And more than 200,000 people have applied to volunteer, suggesting that Tokyo 2020 could be on course to be the most successful Games of all time.
A new twist
Thirty-three sports will feature on the Games programme, five of them new and injecting a more urban and youthful feel. That means the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games programme boasts a total of 339 events – 18 of them new.
While baseball/softball returns after a 12-year absence, the first Olympic gold medals will be awarded in karate, sport climbing, surfing and skateboarding.
Emerging talent at the most gender-balanced Games yet
Almost 49 per cent of the competitors at Tokyo 2020 will be female, making next year’s Games the most gender-balanced ever.
But of the 11,090 athletes from the expected 206 National Olympic Committees and the IOC’s Refugee Olympic Team, only a small proportion will share the 339 gold medals.
The retirement of Usain Bolt creates opportunities for a host of young sprint talent on the athletics track, arguably led by the USA’s Christian Coleman, while in the pool, Tokyo 2020 will be the first Games since Atlanta 1996 without 23-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps. But swimming has plenty more stars who will look to claim the spotlight, with Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu, who won three gold medals at Rio 2016; five-time Olympic champion Katie Ledecky, of the USA; and Great Britain’s 100m breaststroke world champion, world record-holder and Rio 2016 gold medallist Adam Peaty among them.
No female gymnast has ever won five Olympic titles at a single edition of the Games, but Simone Biles of the USA, who took Rio by storm by winning four, could achieve the feat in Tokyo.
In judo, Teddy Riner, the French +100kg superstar who hasn’t been beaten since 2010, will go for his third consecutive Olympic title, while Japan’s Kaori Icho will compete for her fifth successive Olympic gold in women’s wrestling.
The record-breaking German rider Isabell Werth, who’ll be 51 by the time the Tokyo 2020 equestrian competition gets under way, will be out to increase her medal tally – six golds and four silvers, won at five Olympic Games, while Great Britain’s Jason Kenny needs just one more medal to become the most successful cyclist in Olympic history.
The Republic of Korea women’s archery team will look to extend their record of winning every Olympic title that has been contested in the event (eight so far).
Don’t miss out – key dates for your diary
As was the case at London 2012 and Rio 2016, fans around the world will eagerly await “Super Saturday” and “Golden Sunday” on 1 and 2 August – two days of the finest sporting action.
Twenty-one medals will be awarded on the Saturday and 26 the following day, with the women’s marathon, men’s 100m athletics final, men’s and women’s gymnastics and the men’s tennis singles final on the schedule.
Fifty-six test events will be held between now and May 2020 to ensure the best possible experience next summer, when, 56 years after dazzling the world the first time around with its forward thinking, Japan will take sport and its fans on another magical journey into the future.