Tokyo 2020 Games: What Will It Look Like When It Happens In 2021?


Cheng Sim •  Jun 29, 2021

Tokyo 2020 is making its way back to Japan after last year's postponement due to COVID-19 pandemic. While sports fans are excited to see the world's biggest sporting event this year, Tokyo 2020 has some hurdles to jump, including the slight increase of COVID-19 cases in the city as well as public concerns and protest calling for another year of cancellation. How will Japan host Tokyo 2020 Games during the pandemic? Let's find out!

When is Tokyo 2020 Games?

Credit: Tokyo 2020 on Facebook (Shugo Takemi)

After last year's postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Tokyo 2020 Games will return to Japan from 23 July to 8 August 2021. The last time Tokyo hosted the Olympics was in 1964, so it's a long time coming for Japan!

The opening and closing ceremonies for Tokyo 2020 will be held at the Olympic Stadium (also known as the National Stadium) in Shinjuku, Tokyo. It was the same place where the Tokyo 1964 Olympics ceremonies took place, and the stadium was redeveloped by Japanese architect Keigo Kuma who drew inspiration from traditional Japanese architecture and nature.

Tokyo 2020 will host 46 Olympic sports including athletics, basketball, artistic gymnastics, and badminton, as well as 24 Paralympic sports including taekwando, sitting volleyball, and wheelchair tennis.

Why is it still called Tokyo 2020 Games?

Although the event will be held in 2021, the name Tokyo 2020 Games remains due to branding and marketing purposes. Any name change can affect the event's billboard advertisements, television commercials, official merchandises, corporate advertising and more. According to The Wall Street Journal, the marketing budget for Tokyo 2020 Games was $1.2 billion.

What's the COVID-19 situation in Japan?

As of June 2021, Japan reported a comparatively low number of COVID-19 cases, averaging between 100 and 300 cases daily. According to Japan Times, Japan's economic revitalization minister Yasutoshi Nishimura hinted the possibility of a state of emergency in Tokyo and six other prefectures after a slight increase in COVID-19 outbreak was reported.

Tokyo is currently placed under a quasi-state of emergency where measures are only placed in targeted areas, rather than the entire prefecture. At the time of writing, the Japan government has yet to decide whether the quasi-state of emergency in Tokyo will continue throughout Tokyo 2020.

How do the residents feel about Tokyo 2020?

Hosting Tokyo 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic raised concerns from the residents. In early June, protests were held in Shinjuku calling the cancellation of Tokyo 2020. Japan Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi also shared her concerns in an opinion article for Kyodo News where she wrote, “What will these Olympics be for and for whom? The Games have already lost meaning and are being held just for the sake of them."

Why can't Japan reschedule Tokyo 2020 to 2022?

According to International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Games' Japanese partners and Japan prime minister have shared that the country 'could not manage a postponement beyond next summer at the latest'.

"It is a mammoth undertaking, both for the Organising Committee and the country as a whole. First of all, you need to secure the availability of the Olympic Village, since that is at the heart of the Games. The same applies to all the sports venues. Thousands of people will need to carry on working. All the partners, sponsors and regional and local governments need to pull together. Postponement will involve restrictions and compromises on the part of everyone involved. There is no blueprint for postponement, but the IOC is very confident that all the complex parts will come together and give us a marvellous Games."

How will Japan host Tokyo 2020 during COVID-19 pandemic? 

Credit: Tokyo 2020 on Facebook (Shugo Takemi)

Amid concerns surrounding Tokyo 2020, the organising committee is implementing safe measures to ensure that Tokyo 2020 runs smoothly and safely for all parties involved.

1. No international spectators

There will be no international spectators in Tokyo 2020, and only 10,000 domestic spectators are allowed to attend via a new lottery system. According to International Olympic Committee (IOC), each sporting venue will have a capacity limit of 50% or a maximum of 10,000 attendees.

2. Speaking in a loud voice is prohibited during the event

Domestic spectators must wear a face mask at all times. Speaking in a loud voice or shouting will also be prohibited during the event, and spectators must travel directly between their home and venue as part of safety measures.

3. Athletes are prohibited from using public transport

According to Athletes and Officials Playbook, competing athletes must adhere to several safety measures including:

  • Wear a face mask at all times
  • Minimise physical interaction
  • Provide a negative COVID-19 test results certificate
  • Have regular COVID-19 screening tests during the Games
  • Stay in official accommodation provided by Tokyo 2020
  • Use dedicated Games vehicle, and commuting via public transport is not allowed
  • Only carry out activities submitted in the Activity Plan
  • Avoid enclosed spaces and crowds where possible

Hosting Tokyo 2020 amid the pandemic will not be an easy run for Japan, but we're looking forward to see how Tokyo 2020 Games will fare this year and definitely be cheering on our national teams in the comfort of our homes.