What to Expect from the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

Anticipation is building as the summer Olympic Games head back to Japan for the first time since 1964.

Tokyo will once again be on hosting duties for the games, which are scheduled to start on July 24 2020 and run through until August 9. It will become the first Asian city to host two separate editions of the sporting spectacular and marks the first time that the Olympics have stopped by Japan since the winter games were held in Nagano more than 30 years ago.

The 2020 Olympics will be momentous for a number of reasons, not least because of the new sports that have been added to the bill.

For the first time, spectators will be able to enjoy 3x3 basketball, which is a three-a-side contest played into a single hoop; BMX freestyling; Madison cycling (essentially like a relay race); and skateboarding. While climbing, karate, and surfing will all make their maiden appearances at the 2020 games, baseball and softball will also be returning to the schedule after a brief hiatus.

The vast majority of the best athletes and sportspeople on the planet will battle it out for medals, with Gracenote Sports predicting that the USA will once again be crowned team champions, with China second and Japan leaping into third ahead of Russia, Australia, and Great Britain.

Tokyo planning big changes

When it was announced that Tokyo was successful in its bid to host the 2020 games ahead of Madrid and Istanbul, the hard work began in earnest.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government pledged a staggering 400 billion Yen - roughly $4 billion - to facilitate the project. Even with an already exceptional transport system, the investment includes the extension of both Haneda and Narita International airports and the building of a new line at Tokyo Railway Station to help handle the tens of thousands of visitors and cut travel times.

But the focal point will be the New National Stadium, which is being built on the site of the old National Stadium in Shinjuku which hosted the Olympics in 1964. The all-purpose arena will seat around 60,000 people and will host all of the track athletics events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

Other venues being utilized include Nippon Budokan and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, both built for the 1964 games; Ryogoku Kokugikan, the home of sumo wrestling; as well as a number of temporary facilities in the Tokyo Bay area of the city.

If you are heading to Tokyo in the coming months, you are sure to see two cute animated characters on your travels. The official Olympic and Paralympic mascots, Miraitowa and Someity, have been designed with the aim of representing "a future full of eternal hope in the hearts of people all over the world."

And you might just be able to enjoy a unique way to get around the city as well. The car manufacturer Toyota has confirmed it will be building nearly 4,000 new energy-efficient vehicles, including battery and hydrogen-powered cars, futuristic shuttle buses, and mopeds and scooters.

Home hopefuls

For a top athlete, there's nothing quite like winning an Olympic gold medal in your own country, and Japan has plenty of sporting stars eager for success heading into the Tokyo games.

The addition of climbing in the 2020 games roster could not have come at a better time as far as the Japanese are concerned. Their hopefuls, Tomoa Narasaki and Akiyo Noguchi, recently claimed gold and silver at the Climbing World Championships held in Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Kaori Icho, the wrestling superstar, will be looking to create Olympic history by winning a fifth consecutive freestyle gold medal. Japan will be strong across the spectrum of martial arts and combat sports, with the addition of karate also handing the country a number of medal-winning opportunities.

There are plenty of Japanese sporting stars with prior Olympic success under their belts, including one of the country's biggest aces, tennis champion Kei Nishikori. The 29-year-old won bronze at the 2016 Games in Rio, and according to Betway, he is routinely regarded as one of the favourites to win any major tournament, appearing within the top ten contenders at 33/1 to win the 2020 Australian Open as of 28 August 2019. After all, he is a former US Open finalist who has reached at least the quarter-final stage of each of his last five Grand Slam event appearances prior to Flushing Meadows in 2019.

Golf will be making an Olympic appearance for the second time after its inaugural participation at the 2014 games. From a home perspective, Hideki Matsuyama will surely be one of the leading contenders for the gold medal in the men's golf, while in the women's draw both Nasa Hataoka, who is ranked ninth in the world, and recent Women's British Open champion, Hinako Shibuno, have strong medal claims as well.

And there could even be history made in the 100-metre sprint, which is always one of the most eagerly anticipated events in any games. Usain Bolt, after striking gold in Beijing, London and Rio de Janeiro, is enjoying a welcome retirement, so there is a vacancy for a new champion.

Yoshihide Kiryu will look to become the first Japanese medallist in a sprint event. The 23-year-old became the first athlete from Japan to break the 10-second barrier back in 2017, smashing the national record in the process, and won gold at the Asian Athletics Championships in 2019. Could he make history in 2020?

Either way, the Tokyo Olympics are sure to be an outstanding watch for the hundreds of thousands in attendance and the millions watching on at home from around the world.

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