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Sports Management
16 May 2016 issue 120

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Leisure Management - Tokyo 2020


Tokyo 2020

Self-driving taxis, robots and a youth focus could all have a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. With four years to go, Kath Hudson explores what the Games may have in store

Kath Hudson
Skateboarding could make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo as part of a bid to engage more young people Lenny ignelzi / Press association images
Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Hikariko Ono said the Games are encouraging innovation in Japanese business
Surfing could make their Olympic debuts in Tokyo as part of a bid to engage more young people
School children in Tokyo counting down to the start of the 2020 Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 - Shugo Takemi

In a few months the Rio Olympics will be over and all eyes will be on Tokyo. So far the big headlines have included the Olympic Stadium design debacle, allegations of plagiarism over the logo and concerns about mounting costs, but the organising committee is keen to draw a line under these challenges and move forward with its vision of creating a forward-looking, inclusive and engaging Olympic Games.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics transformed Japan, bringing rapid economic growth, and now there are high hopes for the 2020 Games to do the same. The Tokyo organising committee has said it wants to make its Olympic Games the most technologically advanced ever.

There are rumours of self-driving taxis, apps to show people to their seats in a number of different languages and facial recognition software at the venues. The organising committee says innovation will be a key part of the Games in order to ensure a good experience for athletes and visitors, as well as creating engagement with the rest of the world.

“We see the 2020 Games as an opportunity for Japan, Tokyo and the Japanese business community to amaze the world in areas not directly related to the Games,” says Tokyo 2020 spokesperson, Hikariko Ono. “One of the objectives of our technology team was to stimulate Japanese companies and encourage innovation.

“We are hoping to develop and popularise a diverse range of technological innovations, including hydrogen-powered vehicles, multilingual translation devices, and sports-related data devices, equipped with the latest ICT technologies.”

Japan is also the first country to be permitted to add youth sports to the bill under the Olympics Agenda 2020. To encourage youth engagement, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has proposed 18 events from five sports which are appealing to young people: baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing. The final line up of new sports will be announced in Rio in August.

“We are deeply honoured and very excited to be the first ever OCOG to be offered the opportunity to contribute to the innovative design of the Olympic programme,” says Ono. “This package of events represents both traditional and emerging, youth-focused events, all of which are popular both in Japan and internationally.

“These sports will serve as a driving force to further promote the Olympic movement and its values, with a focus on youth appeal. They will add value to the Games by engaging the Japanese population and new audiences worldwide, reflecting the Tokyo 2020 Games vision.”

The delivery phase is set to swing into top gear from next year and will be completed by 2019. Nineteen existing venues will be used, as well as eight new permanent venues and seven temporary venues. Where possible, cost savings have been made by using existing venues, for example a velodrome and mountain bike track 120 kilometres outside of Tokyo.

Venue construction has caused the biggest controversy to date, when Zaha Hadid Architects’ (ZHA) designs for the Olympic Stadium were thrown out last July by Prime Minster Shinze Abe.

Stadium doubts
ZHA won the contract in an international architectural competition in 2012, but received criticism from Japanese architects and caused public outcry when the original budget almost doubled. ZHA said the rising costs were the result of spiraling construction costs in Japan and a fixed deadline. The firm wanted the opportunity to modify their plans, which they had been working on for two years.

However, another competition, with a much shorter design and construction schedule, was opened in September. The stadium was reduced in size from 72,000 to 68,000-capacity and the cost was capped at 155bn yen (US1.3bn, €1.2bn, £850m), representing a significant reduction from 250bn yen (US$2bn, €1.8bn, £1.37bn) estimated for the initial proposal.

In December, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, who is known for his use of natural materials, was appointed with an oval, wooden lattice design. According to the Japan Times, “Japanese-ness” was a key factor in choosing the winning design. Circulation areas around the edge of each level feature plants, trees and exposed terraces.

The cost of organising the Games is likely to be higher than the original estimate of 300bn yen (£1.8bn) and the organising committee is due to submit a revised cost estimate to the IOC this summer. Rising costs are a result of unforeseen extras, such as the construction of temporary venues, transport, infrastructure and tightened security.

Moving forward, the new Olympic and Paralympic logos were selected last month, following comments from 40,000 members of the public. Composed of three varieties of rectangular shapes, the chequered emblem is rendered in the traditional Japanese indigo blue, known as ichimatsu moyo and, according to the organisers, incorporates the message of unity in diversity.

“The new Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 emblem symbolises important elements of the Tokyo 2020 Games vision,” says IOC vice president and chair of the Tokyo 2020 Coordination Commission John Coates. “The public engagement in the selection process is another sign of growing interest in the 2020 Games. Interest and excitement will continue to build, in Japan and globally, after the official hand-off to Tokyo 2020 at the close of the Olympic Games Rio 2016.”

Tokyo 2020 innovation:
The things to look out for
1. Self-driving transport
Driverless cabs are being developed for the influx of spectators travelling to Tokyo for the event

2. Instant language translation
Real-time systems will be ready for the Games

3. Robot assistants
Robots could aid visitors during the Games

4. TV broadcasts in 8K
Viewers will watch the Games like never before

5. Artificial meteor shower
Rumour has it artificial meteors may feature in the hotly-anticipated opening ceremony

6 .Hydrogen-powered buses & buildings
According to reports, the government is planning to spend US$330m on hydrogen power

7. Algae as a fuel source
The carbon dioxide-sucking lifeform is being seen as a potential energy source

8. Even more maglev trains
Japan is looking to roll out the high speed train in Tokyo in time for the Games

9. Sports-related data devices
New tech will use the latest ICT technologies

Tokyo 2020 controversies

2020 Olympic Stadium ruckus

Zaha Hadid Architects originally won the tender to design the Olympic Stadium (above) before Japanese president Shinzo Abe pulled the plug citing budgetary factors. Kengo Kuma was drafted in to take over the project, but Hadid – who passed away unexpectedly in March – criticised the move, claiming that it put the legacy of the Games in “jeopardy” and that parts of her design were plagiarised by Kuma.

2020 Olympic Stadium

Zaha Hadid claimed that Kengo Kuma copied elements of her design

Kengo Kuma
Tokyo 2020 controversies

2020 logo debacle

Organisers were forced to scrap the first logo after designer Kenjiro Sano was accused of plagiarising an emblem designed by Belgian Olivier Debie for the Théâtre de Liege. A new logo, designed by Asao Tokoro – titled Harmonised Checkered Emblem – was revealed last month. We like it better.

Shizuo Kambayashi/AP/Press Association Images

The new logo for Tokyo 2020 – designed by Asao Tokoro – was unveiled in April 2016

Emblem designed by Belgian Olivier Debie for the Théâtre de Liege (right)

Originally published in Sports Management 16 May 2016 issue 120

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