All That’s Weird and Wonderful About This Year’s Tokyo Summer Olympics
By Scott Murphy
10 reasons why they’ll be a Games like no other...
Unless a massive COVID outbreak suddenly occurs mid-Games, no amount of protesting is going to derail the 2020 (1) Tokyo Olympics (July 23rd-August 8th) and Paralympics (August 24th-September 5th) now. So let’s accentuate the positive. Here are a few reasons why this year’s Games are unique…
- This will be one of the quietest Games ever. There will be over 11,500 athletes competing and 79,000 overseas officials and support staff staying in their fancy hotels. But spectators? Only 26 of the 339 events will have crowds (albeit reduced) as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have asked the public to “support athletes from home” due to the pandemic.
2. The world may be a lot quieter too as the United Nations General Assembly has called on all member countries to observe a truce during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. While the tradition dates back to ancient Greece, the UN General Assembly renewed the practice in 1993.
3. Syria’s Hend Zera, who competes in the sport of ping-pong, is set to be the youngest athlete to compete in Tokyo at the age of 12. And early on, Japan’s Momji Nishiya won the first ever Olympic gold medal for women’s street skateboarding at the tender age of 13. 66 year old Australian Mary Hanna will be the oldest athlete to compete in the sport of dressage. This will be her seventh Olympic Games. Meanwhile, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first ever transgender athlete to compete in the sport of weightlifting.
4. At least 40.5 percent of the athletes at the Paralympic Games will be women, which is a record. 1,782 women will be competing, a two percent increase on female competitors at Rio 2016.
5. Karate, BMX freestyle, sport climbing, skateboarding and surfing are five new sports making their Olympic debuts. New events will also take place, including 3-on-3 basketball, which only uses a half court. Badminton and taekwondo are two sports making their Paralympic debuts at Tokyo 2020. At the Paralympics, also watch for Boccia and goalball, the only two sports that don’t have an Olympic equivalent.
6. Tokyo’s Olympic torch has been designed in the shape of a Sakura flower and is made using recycled aluminum from Fukushima, the site of Japan’s 2011 earthquake. The Games marks the second time Tokyo is hosting the Summer Olympics, 56 years after the city first hosted. Tokyo is also the first city to host the Paralympic Games for a second time, which marks the perfect occasion to open the first-ever Paralympic Museum.
7. Miraitowa and Someity are the mascots for this year’s Olympics and Paralympics. Miraitowa’s name combines the Japanese words for “future” and “eternity” while Someity’s name is a combination of “cherry blossom” and “mighty”. There will be robotic versions of the mascots on the grounds and also keep an eye out for robots which will fetch sporting equipment during competitions.
8. Olympic and Paralympic events will be held at more than 40 venues across Japan, and the Games will be divided into three zones: the Heritage Zone in Tokyo, which will feature the New National Stadium, the Tokyo Bay area for swimming and gymnastics and Outer Tokyo, which will host marathons. The Stadium, incidentally, features timber acquired from all of Japan’s 47 prefectures.
9. A few additional Paralympic facts: Circular indentations have been included on the side of medals for the first time ever to help vision impaired athletes to identify their medal. The first ever Paralympic video game — titled “The Pegasus Dream Tour” has just been launched. And give a few extra claps to several of the athletes, including Dutch rowing champion Annika van der Meer, who spent some of their off-time fighting the COVID pandemic as doctors, nurses and healthcare workers. And which country has been the dominant player at the Paralympics this century? That honor goes to China, whose athletes won the most gold medals at every Paralympic Games so far, including a record 107 medals in Rio.
10. When the winning athletes ascend the podium at this year’s Games, note that all of the 5,000 medals made have been created from 78,985 tons of recycled electronic devices, which included digital cameras, laptops, handheld games and a whopping six million mobile phones.