10 things to expect from the 2020 Japan Olympics

The future of sports stadium architecture.
The future of sports stadium architecture.

When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped up out of the stage at the Rio closing ceremony dressed as Super Mario, it was the first signal that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be different.

How different?

The Japanese pride themselves on their technology which they see as symbolising the country's high-tech cool. So stand by to be wowed.

Here's eight futuristic things spectators and broadcast viewers can expect in four years from now....


If you're lucky enough to be there, you might find a robot directing you to your stadium seat. As you do, artificial meteorites will be streaking across the Tokyo sky.

Down below in the bowels of the stadium, hundreds of performers decked out in traditional Japanese costumes glide through the arena.

And you will take all this in via a multilingual translation app on your smartphone.

Sound far-fetched? Don't be fooled. This is the crazy vision that Japan wants to bring to life.


The Japan Games will be the year of the Olympic robot. Tokyo 2020 organisers are aiming to launch ambitious tech projects that will boost the economy and wow crowds.

Robots technology is a big part of that.

Tourists staying next to the Olympic Village in Tokyo's Odaiba neighborhood will be able to choose, for example, to hang out with robot helpers of all sizes and sorts that offer up tips on the best transport, food and entertainment options. And that won't be the only place they'll encounter their robotic counterparts.

With the government aiming to triple their spending on robotics, visitors are sure to see them in the place of human concierges at hotels and airports, where they'll be on hand to meet and greet you. You may have to pay Robot Restaurant a few visits before being able to take everything in. It's a sci-fi cabaret club where big robots meet ninjas meet dancers in sparkly bikinis. Flooded with neon lights, mirrors and golden seashell-shaped armchairs, the restaurant in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku cost $14 million to construct.


Japanese company Robot Taxi Inc. is also working on driverless vehicles that visitors will be to ride from stadium to stadium, while Panasonic is creating translation gadgets that can be worn around visitors' necks.


During sporting events, visitors might catch human referees using 3D laser technology to analyse a gymnast's complex motions, allowing them to give out more accurate scores. The same technology will be applied to other subjective Olympics sports including synchronised swimming, diving and new sports such as skateboarding and surfing.


No Olympic Games is complete without a signature national stadium.

Leading Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's new design reimagines traditional styles of Japanese buildings for the 21st century.

His oval, wooden-latticed structure, that will be the centerpiece of the 2020 games, seems set on allowing visitors to experience a space that mixes some futuristic undertones with Japan's love of wooden structures.

Celebrity Iraqi-born British architect, Zaha Hadid's original design for the 2020 Olympic stadium won an international competition, but received criticism and was ultimately dropped. Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki described it as "a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away."


In other recent host Olympic cities including Beijing and Rio, sports fans had to be careful which parts of the city they wandered into.

Tokyo is unlikely to be similar. In 2015, Tokyo topped The Safe Cities Index in terms of digital and health security, infrastructure and personal safety, so visitors don't have much to worry about in the way of crime and violence that dogged Rio.

The city boasts a mosaic of cool neighborhoods, each packed full of cafés, clubs, restaurants, art spaces and shopping malls. And despite its 13 million-strong population and densely packed buildings, Tokyo was also rated as the "most livable city" of 2015 in global affairs magazine Monocle's annual "Quality of Life" survey.

"Everybody can experience hypermodern living and respect for historic values in Tokyo," Hikariko Ono, a spokeswoman from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee, told CNN. "We're proud of the public safety records, infrastructure, and hospitality."

In Japan, omotenashi is a word that reflects a Japanese style of hospitality and service as visiting guests are placed on a pedestal and treated with utmost respect.

Ono believed that Olympics volunteers as well as Tokyoites in the service sectors would be welcoming visitors with this spirit in 2020.

Yet to make sure that everything runs ultra-smoothly, Tokyo will still need to sort out some congestion issues and make sure that there are enough hotels to cope with the influx of Olympic athletes and visitors that descend on the city in 2020.


2020 won't be the first time that Tokyo holds a summer Olympics. Back in 1964, Japan became the first Asian country to host the games.

"1964 was the crowning achievement for post-war Japan," Sandra Collins, a specialist in Japanese Olympics history, told CNN.

"The Japanese wanted to show the world that were no longer a war-mongering nation...that they had arrived on the international world stage as a team player."

In 2020, the Tokyo Olympic committee, said Collins, aims to promote a similar message of hope, while also emphasizing what Japan is known for among the international community: technology and safety.

"I think the kind of hope that Japan is trying to perpetuate both domestically and internationally is that it still had the wherewithal, despite being an aging population with stagnant growth," said Collins.

"Japan wants to show that they can be resourceful in the way that most modern cities and nations will have to be in this kind of turbulent global society."


The International Olympic Committee has confirmed that the 2020 Olympic games will include five new sports. They will be baseball, climbing, karate, skateboarding, and surfing.


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