In Depth

Why everyone’s talking about the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

There’s one year to go until the start of the summer games in Japan

The one year countdown has begun for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. 

Japan’s capital city is gearing up to host next summer’s sporting spectacular which will take place from 24 July until 9 August. 

More than 200 nations and 11,000 athletes will compete across 33 sports for the gold, silver and bronze medals. The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, which starts on 25 August, will feature 22 sports.  

Tokyo officials have today unveiled the medals for next year’s games. With sustainability a major theme for the Olympic movement, the BBC reports that 5,000 medals have been created “entirely from recycled consumer devices”.

Here we look at Team GB’s hopes for 2020, how preparations are going in Japan’s capital and the storylines to watch out for in the next 12 months.

‘Medals and more’ for Team GB

At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Olympic Team enjoyed its best ever summer games. Team GB won 67 medals (27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze) to finish second in the table behind the United States. 

So what are the expectations for Tokyo? Data provider Gracenote Sports predicts that Team GB will win 43 medals in Japan and finish in the top five of the overall table.

While the tally is important, The Guardian reports that Team GB “must deliver more than just medals” in Japan.

Paul MacInnes writes: “The slogan of the British Olympic movement used to be straightforward and decidedly unsentimental. 

“Now, as the countdown to Tokyo 2020 reaches a year to go, ‘no compromise’ has been replaced by a new and gentler slogan: ‘medals and more’.”

Explaining the slogan, UK Sport’s director of performance Chelsea Warr said: “We are more sophisticated than just a single binary medal target now. The best description I can give is ‘medals and more’. This is medals plus plus. 

“We want to see Team GB and Paralympics GB in the upper echelons of the medal table. We want to see more medals and more medallists to inspire the nation. Of course we want to do well and, actually, we will. 

“The team will do a really, really good job. But I think it would be a bit of a tragedy if we judged the whole success or failure of the high performance on medals.”

Big medal hopes for Team GB include Dina Asher-Smith, Laura Muir and Katarina Johnson-Thompson in athletics and Adam Peaty in swimming.

Tokyo’s preparations and ticket sales

Japan Today reports that despite scandals, rising costs and doubts about the economic payoff, the Tokyo 2020 games will be a must-see event - that’s if you can find a ticket or a hotel room.

Tokyo is building eight new venues for the games including the $1.25bn (£1bn) National Stadium and an Olympic Village to house more than 10,000 athletes. There are also 35 other venues that will be temporary or pre-existing.

BBC Sport reports that half of the new venues are already complete while John Coates, chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission, told the Japan Times that delivery remains “firmly on track”.

Coates said: “The excitement is growing. You’ve seen the unprecedented interest in ticket sales.” 

The IOC says that more than 3.22 million tickets were snapped up during the first phase of sales.

Tokyo Olympic Games

Getty Images

Scandals and costs

Scandals that have hit Tokyo 2020 include the resignation of Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda and a change of the official logo after claims of plagiarism were made against the designers. 

Generally though, the build-up to 2020 has been positive says Japan Today’s Stephen Wade. He writes: “Tokyo was supposed to be a ‘safe pair of hands’ after Rio de Janeiro’s corruption and near-meltdown three years ago. 

“Mostly, it has been. Local sponsorship revenue has passed $3bn [£2.4bn], about three times more than any previous games.” 

Wade explains that costs - Olympic and non-Olympic - are not clear, but it’s estimated that Tokyo is spending at least $20bn (£16bn) to prepare for 2020 - 70% of which is taxpayers’ money.

What’s coming up?

The next 12 months will see stories focused on athletes and teams who are aiming to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

Next year’s games will feature five new sports - baseball/softball, karate, sport climbing, surfing, and skateboarding - so expect more coverage as stars emerge in the run-up. 

BBC sports editor Dan Roan says that athletes must be able to handle the heat of Tokyo’s summer while costs, corruption and doping will also be major topics of discussion.   

In the United States NBC Sports predicts 20 storylines for the 2020 games, including Simone Biles’s gymnastics encore, Tiger Woods’s qualification hopes in golf and the US Women’s soccer team going for a World Cup/Olympic double.   


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