Tokyo is gearing up to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics
It's no understatement to say the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will impact Tokyo and Japan immensely. Tokyo 2020 will see over 15,000 athletes from 207 nations participate in what will be the most innovative, inclusive and inspiring Olympics yet.
The world's best athletes will arrive in Japan for the games, which will kick off on Friday, July 24 with a spectacular opening ceremony, and will run until Sunday, August 9. Shortly afterward, the Paralympic Games will begin on Tuesday, August 25 and run until Sunday, September 6.
There are 33 Olympic sports and 22 Paralympic sports which will be held across 43 venues around the country, with athletes eager to get their hands on one (or more) of around 900 gold medals.
For the hundreds of thousands of spectators anticipated to descend on Tokyo from abroad to witness the excitement firsthand, it's sure to be the trip of a lifetime.
Among Tokyo 2020's 33 Olympic sports will be five events making their debut or return to the games: baseball (men)/softball (women), karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding. Baseball, being something of a national obsession, and karate, with its origins in the Ryukyu Islands (in modern-day Okinawa Prefecture), are particularly significant additions.
These five new sports were chosen specifically to appeal to a younger audience. Surfing in Japan is becoming increasingly popular thanks to the country's many prime surf spots, while skateboarding and sport climbing were chosen to reflect the growing urbanization of sport.
The Paralympics will also see two new sports—taekwondo and badminton—added to the roster in 2020.
Making Olympic History
Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 Olympics in 2013 and, since then, it's been preparing for the most spectacular games yet. But this isn't Japan's first time hosting the Olympics. Two Winter Olympic Games—the 1972 Sapporo Olympics in Japan's northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido and the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998—have been held here previously.
This will be Tokyo's second time as the host city for the Summer Olympic Games after the event was first held here over half a century ago in 1964. It will be the first city to host the Paralympic Games twice, an accolade it's keen to use as a springboard to becoming more inclusive for those with disabilities.
Many of the venues used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics will be put to good use again in 2020 as legacy venues. These include the Nippon Budokan , where judo made its debut as an Olympic sport. The flagship Olympic Stadium will be new but is being built on the same ground as the original 1964 venue.
The majority of Olympic and Paralympic events will be held in two different themed "zones" within Tokyo. Many of the iconic Olympic locations from the 1964 games lie within the inner-city Heritage Zone. The Olympic Stadium is in this zone and the venue will host the prestigious opening and closing ceremonies of the Games, as well as the athletics events, packing in 60,000 spectators. Also in the Heritage Zone is the multi-purpose Tokyo Stadium—which will host a range of events including rugby and modern pentathlon—and the Kokugikan Arena. The latter has room for 11,000 spectators and is usually used for sumo wrestling, but will be repurposed to host the boxing in 2020.
The second zone is the Tokyo Bay Zone, which will consist of mostly new venues. These include the Olympic BMX Course, which can hold 6,000 spectators and will host the new skateboarding events along with BMX events. At the Aomi Urban Sports Venue, 5,000 people will be able to enjoy watching Olympic basketball and climbing.
The layout of the two zones is intended to resemble an infinity symbol, with Harumi—the location of the Olympic Village—located in the intersection between them. The Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be housed in twenty-three specially constructed residential buildings, which will be renovated and sold as apartments after the Games.
In addition to the two main zones, there are a number of outlying venues that will host Olympic events. The most far-flung of these are Sendai's 48,000-capacity Miyagi Stadium and Hokkaido's 40,000-capacity Sapporo Dome, both of which will host some of the soccer matches. Spectators of the newly-added Olympic surfing events will travel a little outside Tokyo to the beautiful Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba Prefecture.
Traveling between venues
The division of venues into distinct zones and the existence of outlying venues might seem daunting, but thankfully Japan's stellar transport systems will make traveling between them a breeze.
Tokyo has extremely convenient subway, bus and train networks. One of the main train lines is the Yamanote Line, which runs in a loop and connects most of the major areas of the city. To avoid the hassle of paper train tickets, the easiest way to get around is by using a prepaid IC card. You can purchase these at almost any station. Top them up and touch them to the ticket gates when you travel.
If you intend to travel outside the capital, the shinkansen is generally the best option. The bullet train will transport you from one city to the next at up to 320 km/h in maximum comfort.
Shinkansen tickets can be expensive, so if you're planning to do a lot of traveling by train, the Japan Rail Pass (also known as the JR Pass) can be a great money saver. It gives overseas tourists unlimited travel on Japan Rail trains for seven, 14 or 21 consecutive days, except for the fastest Nozomi (shinkansen) trains.
You can also fly between venue cities, which is the best choice if you're traveling to Sapporo. Located on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, over 500 miles from Tokyo, Sapporo merits at least an overnight stay.
How to get tickets
If you live in Japan, tickets will be available to purchase from spring 2019 both on the internet and through 40,000 participating shops. You can register online now to receive the latest updates. Overseas residents will be able to order tickets through the National Olympic Committee of their respective countries, or other authorized ticket resellers.
The Tokyo 2020 Committee is aiming to make Olympic tickets affordable for as many people as possible, so tickets will be available at a wide variety of prices. Tickets purchased in Japan for sports events will cost between 2,500 yen and 130,000 yen, with over half of all tickets priced at 8,000 yen or less. Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies will range from 12,000 to 300,000 yen.
There will also be the opportunity to watch certain sections of the marathon, road cycling, triathlon, and race walk events for free along the streets of Tokyo. City-wide ‘Live Sites' will add to the atmosphere by offering spectators without tickets the chance to watch the Games live on giant screens.
Tokyo 2020 will be the world's 16th Paralympic Games, officially beginning with the opening ceremony on Tuesday, August 25. Following this, 12 days of action-packed sporting events will see over 4,000 athletes compete for an estimated 540 gold medals in the biggest Paralympics yet. As the city will be the first to host the Paralympics for a second time, it's aiming to use this opportunity to create an urban environment that is accessible to everyone.
There will be a total of 22 Paralympic sports featured in the 2020 Games, including athletics, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball, and wheelchair rugby. The two new sports of badminton and taekwondo will replace sailing and seven-a-side football (both of which were dropped because the International Paralympic Committee felt that they didn't have enough global reach).
The Paralympic events will be held in many of the same venues as the Olympic events. Traveling between them will be slightly easier, however, as the only sports that will take place in venues outside of the two main Heritage and Tokyo Bay zones are shooting and cycling. The shooting events will be hosted in the Asaka Shooting Range, while track cyclists will head to Izu in Shizuoka to compete at the 5,000-capacity Izu Velodrome.
The men's and women's marathons will round off the games on September 6 before the closing ceremony, with athletes passing through the heart of Tokyo and past some of its most iconic landmarks.
The procedure for obtaining tickets for Paralympic sports events and the opening and closing ceremonies is the same as for the Olympics. Tickets will go on sale slightly later, however, in summer 2019.
With the 2020 Olympics being held at the height of the Tokyo summer, the Games are sure to see plenty of bright, sunny days. In a city known for its hot and humid summer weather, the high temperatures forecast for Tokyo 2020 do mean that spectators should take some precautions to cope with the heat while enjoying the events.
Visitors are advised to wear adequate sunscreen, cover up with a hat, sunglasses and loose, light clothing, and to drink plenty of water. Luckily Japan sells a wide range of fantastic products to help people cool down effectively, too, including body wipes, refreshing sprays, and fans.
There will be many measures in place to help athletes as well, such as installing cooling mist showers, applying a product to road surfaces that reflects heat and UV rays, and starting some events—most notably the marathon—earlier in the day.
Hope lights our way
The Olympic torch is one of the games' most recognized symbols. For 2020, the flame will be kindled at a special ceremony in Olympia, Greece, on March 12. It will be handed to the Tokyo committee in Athens, before being transported to Japan.
The concept for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay is "Hope Lights Our Way." In keeping with this theme, the Olympic flame will first be displayed in Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima—the three prefectures that were most affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. It will then be carried by thousands of torch-bearers through all 47 prefectures of Japan over 121 days, spreading excitement for the upcoming games, before arriving at the opening ceremony to ignite the Olympic cauldron.
Tokyo 2020's other important symbols are, of course, the Olympic mascots Miraitowa and Someity. Miraitowa, whose name is a combination of the Japanese words for ‘future' and ‘eternity', is a figure designed with the same indigo blue checkerboard pattern as the official Tokyo 2020 logo. Someity, the Paralympics mascot, has a similar pink design reminiscent of Japan's famous cherry blossoms. The name is taken from a variety of the flower, and is a play on the English phrase "so mighty."
Where to stay
Thanks to Tokyo's fantastic public transport systems, staying in the immediate vicinity of the Olympic venues is not necessary. Any of the city's main inner neighborhoods—such as Shibuya , Shinjuku , and Roppongi —will give you easy access to wherever you need to go, both for the Games and for more general sightseeing.
Tokyo has a wide variety of great hotels, from traditional Japanese-style ryokan inns to more modern luxury hotels. If you're on a budget, capsule hotels can be both cost-effective and novel, but are not recommended for longer stays due to the lack of private space.
Airbnb is also an option and often can offer more spacious accommodation than hotels. It's worth noting though that the Japanese government recently passed stricter regulations on Airbnb properties, which resulted in many listings being removed from the site.
Essentially, whatever your accommodation of choice is, the advice is to book early. Most reasonable lodgings will be booked up months or even a year in advance. And once you have this sorted, you can start getting ready for an Olympic trip you'll never forget.
All information is correct as of March 2019.