Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics Guide

In 1964, Tokyo became the first ever Asian city to host the Olympic Games and it was a triumph which propelled Japan into the modern era. Now, the city is preparing to host the games once more in summer 2021, exactly one year after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were originally due to begin.

The decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics to summer 2021 due to COVID-19 safety concerns was jointly made by the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach. However, the IOC has confirmed that the Games will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite the new 2021 event date.

This handy Tokyo Olympics guide will give you an overview of the games including important dates, exciting events, sports venues, and ticket information.

Tokyo 2020 key dates

The Tokyo games will take place over 17 action-packed days from July 24 to August 8 2021.

The Opening Ceremony will be held at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium. However, the sports action will actually start two days before with the first soccer and softball matches. The qualifying rounds for rowing and archery will start on the day of the ceremony.

The games will heat up as 21 different sports will start including gymnastics, fencing, tennis, table tennis, shooting, and cycling. The absolute peak of the excitement will be the finals of the athletics which will be the last sporting event.

The Closing Ceremony will happen on the last day of the games.

The Tokyo Paralympic Games will start 15 days after the closure of the Olympics.

Overall there will be 540 events across dozens of different sports. You can check the updated Tokyo Olympics schedule to know the 2021 dates when each competition will be held.

Ban on Foriegn Visitors

After months of careful consideration, the Japanese government has decided to impose a ban on foreign visitors to the Tokyo Olympics to curb the spread of COVID-19 and prevent another surge of coronavirus infections in Japan.

The IOC has announced that it fully respects the difficult decision, with President Thomas Bach saying that “the first principle is safety. Every decision has to respect the principle of safety first”.

Nevertheless, Bach added that he hopes that fans around the world will tune into live broadcasts of the events and that they serve as “a light at the end of the tunnel” of the pandemic.

Additionally, the IOC has asked that the government of Japan allow foreign sponsors and overseas Olympic committees to continue to attend the Olympics in person.

Coronavirus safety measures

In order for the Olympics to safely go ahead in summer 2021, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee has been working closely with the (IOC), and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to develop a number of coronavirus safety measures and COVID-19 playbook for the events.

COVID-19 safety protocols for the 2021 events were first discussed at a coordination meeting in November 2020 and further developed during a 3-day video conference between the organising bodies in February 2021.

The extensive measures to curb the spread of coronavirus during the Games will include testing for athletes and other participants, and social distancing and PPE requirements for venues and the Olympic and Paralympic Villages.

The countermeasures will also be constantly revised in accordance with the evolving global situation in the lead up to the start of the Games in July 2021.

Olympic venues

The Tokyo Olympic venues will be in two main zones: the Heritage Zone (the area of the ‘64 Olympics) and the Tokyo Bay Zone (which will feature newly-built venues). The two zones will overlap to form the shape of the infinity symbol to symbolize the legacy of the games and the link between past, present, and future.

In total, 43 venues will be used. Tokyo Bay Zone will be the largest with 13 venues, the Heritage Zone will contain 7, and there will also be some outlying venues for sports with specific requirements. Thousands of volunteers, who will be the ambassadors of the Olympics, will help to ensure the smooth-running of the stadiums.

New Japanese National Stadium
The new National Stadium is set to be the main venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics

The New National Stadium will serve as the main stadium, as it did in the ‘64 Olympics. The stadium is being rebuilt in the same spot and it will hold 68,000 seats. All the track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies will take place there. The closest station to the National Stadium is the Sendagaya Station (Shinjuku district) on the Chuo-Sobu Line.

Olympic sports

The Tokyo Olympics will feature 339 events across 33 sports and 50 disciplines. There will be 5 new sports (baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing, and surfing) as well as 15 new events within existing sports (such as 3-on-3 basketball and freestyle BMX).

Olympic sports
Image byThe Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

List of sports in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Here is a complete list of the sports and disciplines. Some sports are a singular discipline.

  • Aquatics: artistic swimming, diving, swimming, water polo
  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Badminton
  • Baseball (new sport): baseball, softball
  • Basketball: basketball, 3-on-3 basketball
  • Boxing
  • Canoeing: slalom, sprint
  • Climbing (new sport)
  • Cycling: BMX freestyle, BMX racing, mountain biking, road cycling, track cycling
  • Equestrian: dressage, eventing, jumping
  • Fencing
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics: artistic, rhythmic, trampoline
  • Handball
  • Judo
  • Karate (new sport): kata, kumite
  • Modern pentathlon
  • Rowing
  • Rugby sevens
  • Sailing
  • Shooting
  • Skateboarding (new sport)
  • Surfing (new sport)
  • Table tennis
  • Taekwondo
  • Tennis
  • Triathlon
  • Volleyball: volleyball, beach volleyball
  • Weightlifting
  • Wrestling: freestyle, Greco-Roman

Tokyo 2020 mascots

The Tokyo 2020 mascot is a futuristic, indigo-blue character called Miraitowa who has the Tokyo 2020 emblem across its head and body. The design process included 5 million children across Japan who gave their feedback.

Miraitowa’s personality is derived from a traditional Japanese proverb which means to learn old things and to gain new knowledge from them. The mascot has a strong sense of justice and has the special ability to be able to move anywhere instantly.

The 2020 Paralympic mascot is pink and called Someity. It has cherry blossom tactile sensors and 3 superpowers: telepathy, telekinesis, and the ability to fly using its special cloak. Someity has a dignified inner strength and loves nature. Both characters have the Tokyo 2020 logo on their head.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics mascots
Miraitowa & Someiti, Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Mascots – Image by The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Tokyo 2020 tickets: Refunds and validity

Japanese residents were first eligible to apply for tickets from the Tokyo 2020 official website, before sports fans from other countries were able to buy tickets and travel packages from their country’s Authorized Ticket Resellers (ATR).

The IOC has announced that tickets that were purchased for the games when they were originally due to be held in 2020 are still valid for the same session on the 2021 dates. However, they have also clarified that overseas fans who are now not able to attend due to COVID-19 restrictions are able to receive a refund for Olympic tickets.

Spectators who have purchased their tickets directly through the Tokyo 2020 Official Ticket Website can apply for a refund through the same site. Refunds for tickets purchased through ATRs will be handled in line with each company’s terms and conditions.

Find out more detailed information in our article about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics tickets.

The Olympic Torch Relay

The Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay will start on March 25, 2021, and it will pass through all 47 prefectures in Japan. It will start in Fukushima Prefecture and then venture southward.

The torch’s journey will coincide with Japan’s famous cherry blossoms, which typically bloom in early April. The relay will last 121 days and aim to promote the Olympic values throughout Japan. The relay will also aim to demonstrate solidarity with the regions still recovering from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. It will carry the slogan “hope lights our way.”

In a few years time, the Olympic Torch will make its way to France for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The next winter Olympics will be Beijing 2022.

Transport innovations for 2020

Japan has long been known for its groundbreaking research and development in a variety of technologies, and these will be prominently on display during the 2020 Olympics. Within the Olympic Village, humanoid robots will be available to give you directions to nearby accommodations and attractions. New technology will also allow for holographic updates of happenings within the stadium.

When you head to your hotel, you can use one keycard for the train, your hotel room, and your driverless taxi, the result of the implementation of a new generation of cutting-edge “robot taxis” in Tokyo in preparation for the Games.

New Maglev trains

Regarding transportation, Tokyo will again introduce the world to its fastest train yet. While not planned to enter commercial operation until 2027, the Maglev will make its debut at the Tokyo Olympics. This train has broken all land speed records and is capable of reaching speeds more than 374 miles per hour.

These future trains operate on the principle of magnetic levitation, enabling the train to hover above the tracks. It is this lack of friction that allows the train to reach tremendous speeds, while still adhering to stringent Japanese safety standards.

Maglev bullet train prototype
Maglev bullet train prototype

New Shinkansen N700s Supreme trains

Also, the new Shinkansen N700S series, also called Shinkansen Supreme, has been introduced just in time for the Olympics.

This smarter and quieter train has been redesigned and now runs on the Tokaido Shinkansen line, between Tokyo Station and Shin-Osaka Station. Thanks to being 11 tons lighter than the previous generation, it consumes less energy.

Shinkansen N700 Series
Shinkansen N700 “Supreme” Series

New station on the Yamanote line

In honor of the event, the Yamanote Line has inaugurated a new station: Takanawa Gateway Station. This station is located between Shinagawa and Tamachi Stations, and provides access to the Haneda Airport Monorail and the JR Keihin-Tohoku line.

Designed in the eki naka style, Takagawa Gateway station is four stories in height, and the public area boasts a large screen for viewing the games.

New Yamanote line station design
Architect Kengo Kuma has designed the new station on Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line

The Tokyo metro system and JR East have been named official partners in the Tokyo 2020 Sponsorship Programme. Their goal is “to contribute to the growing enthusiasm (…) by providing safe and comfortable transportation services” said JR East President and CEO Tetsuro Tomita.

Begin making your travel plans now so you won’t miss out on this once in a lifetime event, and let your JR Pass make travel fast and easy.

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