Top things to know about the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021

With 100 days to go to the Opening Ceremony, here are the top things to know about the next Olympics, which will witness five new sports, iconic venues, and medals made entirely from recycled metal. 
By Olympic Channel

The anticipation is growing ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

Wednesday 14th April marks 100 days until more than 11,000 athletes from over 200 nations will take part in the Games of the XXXII Olympiad running from 23 July (Opening Ceremony date) to 8 August.

Medals will be awarded in 339 events across 33 sports encompassing 50 disciplines.

This will be the second Olympic Games in Tokyo after the Japanese capital staged the Games of the XVIII Olympiad in 1964.

The Olympics were postponed by a year to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and, due to ongoing restrictions taken by the Japanese government, no foreign fans will be allowed at the Games.

Here's a guide to what to expect from the Olympics in 2021, including the new medal events, and the things to look out for in the 100 days before the Games begin.

Tokyo 2020 in 2021 – 100 Days to Go: What to expect from next 100 days

With 100 Days to Go to the Opening Ceremony, there are still about 15 test events for the Olympic and Paralympic Games still to be held, mostly under the READY, STEADY, TOKYO banner.

The test events act as dress rehearsals for all parts of the competition, from the running of the tournament to logistical and operational capabilities so that when the Games come around, everything proceeds smoothly.

However, the status of test event in artistic swimming is still to be confirmed following their initial cancellation by aquatics international federation FINA. It was originally cancelled alongside the diving test event, a Diving World Cup event, before that was re-instated following discussions involving all parties.

Draws for the group stages in some team sports will also occur between now and the Games.

While teams in basketball, handball, hockey, volleyball, and water polo already know their opponents (and baseball/softball and 3X3 basketball will make use of a single round-robin group), those taking part in beach volleyball, football and rugby sevens have yet to find out who they will face.

The draws for the football tournaments are set to take place on 21 April at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, after the conclusion of qualifiers.

However, in both beach volleyball and rugby, the final qualified teams will not be known until June, with the draw likely taking place once the teams are known.

Qualification events continue to take place across a wide range of sports, before competition begins in softball and football on 21 July.

You can find information on all the year's major sporting events, including qualification tournaments, in our 2021 sporting calendar.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay in 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay began in Fukushima on 25 March 2021, after a delay of a year following the arrival of the Olympic Flame in Japan from Greece last March.

At 121 days, it will last 15 days longer than the journey undertaken ahead of Rio 2016 with the motto "Hope Lights our Way".

The country’s famous cherry blossoms will provide a stunning backdrop as the torch visits Japan's 47 prefectures.

One notable stop was Nagano, host province of the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, on 1–2 April.

The relay ends with 15 days in Tokyo Prefecture before the Opening Ceremony on 23 July 2021.

New sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games in 2021

Surfing

The biggest names in surfing will hit Tsurigasaki Beach with Olympic medals at stake for the first time.

Surfing’s debut at the Olympics includes a line-up of world champions, World Surf League (WSL) tour veterans, and rookies ready to make their mark on the sport.

As is the case in modern surfing history, the top pro surfers to watch will be coming mainly from Australia and the USA, but watch out too for Brazil.

Competition will take place over four days, waves permitting, with the top two surfers in each heat (of either three or four athletes) going through to the next round.

Those who fail to make the first two will compete in a repechage phase to decide who goes through to the latter rounds and eventually, one-on-one medal deciders.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic surfing at Tokyo 2020

Skateboarding

Nyjah Huston and Leticia Bufoni are among the names expected to light up Tokyo.

There are two categories for each gender.

Street skateboarding is held on a straight street-style course complete with stairs, handrails, benches and walls.

The athletes are judged on the originality, execution and number of tricks they perform.

With 4.5m followers on Instagram USA’s Huston is one of the best contest street skaters ever. He has been nominated for the illustrious Thrasher Magazine ‘Skater of the Year’ award several times but never won.

One of Nyjah’s closest friends, Bufoni of Brazil is one of the favourites for victory in the women’s section of street. A keen fitness fanatic, Leticia has been a consistent performer at the World Skate/SLS World Championships since winning the title in 2015.

Park skateboarding takes place on a hollowed-out course featuring a series of curves and deep bowls.

While vert is not a class at the Olympics, there is a significant vert element in park (or bowl) competitions.

Team GB’s Sky Brown put down some performances in 2019 that mean she is effectively guaranteed a spot at Tokyo 2020.

In the summer of 2020, aged just 11, she suffered a bad fall that left her in hospital. The pandemic has meant we haven’t seen the youngster compete since. But her Instagram feed suggests that she is heading back to full fitness and should be one of the main reasons to tune into park skateboarding.

USA’s Heimana Reynolds finished off 2020 as the top ranked male in park skating with Tom Schaar also highly rated.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic skateboarding at Tokyo 2020

Sport Climbing

The first sport climbing Olympic medals will be awarded in Tokyo in combined men's and women's competitions.

For each gender, 20 athletes will take part in all three disciplines - speed, bouldering and lead.

Their placings are then multiplied – for example, a climber who finishes first, fifth, and second will have a score of 10 – with the top six with the lowest totals going through to the final.

Those six then compete again with the lowest multiplication totals this time deciding the medals.

Janja Garnbret from Slovenia will be star to watch out for in the women's tournament. The six-time world champion is one of the best climbers in the world. "When I'm on the wall, nothing else matters," the Slovenian said in 2019.

Czech Republic's Adam Ondra is one of the men's favourites. He was the first one to ever climb a 9C+ bouldering route, considered the hardest route in the world, doing so on the 'Silence' formation in Norway.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic sport climbing at Tokyo 2020

Janja Garnbret celebrates winning the 2018 combined world title in Innsbruck (courtesy of Johann Groder/EXPA Pictures)

Karate

The home of karate will host the first Olympic competition in 2021.

There are six kumite events in Tokyo - three for each gender in different weight divisions - which see two opponents engage in combative sparring.

Men: 67kg, 75kg, +75kg

Women: 55kg, 61kg, +61kg

In addition, there are two kata competitions - one per gender - where the two opponents take it in turns to perform a routine consisting of a series of punches and kicks.

It is in kata where the host nation will be fancied to fare particularly well with Kiyuna Ryo favourite while Damián Quintero of Spain presents the biggest challenge, while Shimizu Kiyou will be tested by Spain's Sandra Sánchez in the women's event.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic karate at Tokyo 2020

Baseball/Softball

Baseball and softball return to the Olympic Games having been dropped after Beijing 2008.

Host nation Japan will be among the favourites in both, and can take inspiration from the last final in softball.

The United States had won all three previous gold medals, starting with the first at Atlanta 1996, and they took a 22-game winning streak into the 2008 final.

But Yukiko Ueno gave up just one run as Japan upset the favourites 3-1 to claim a first gold.

Meanwhile, the United States will look for their first baseball gold since Sydney 2000, their only triumph to date. In Beijing, South Korea defeated Cuba in the final.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic baseball at Tokyo 2020

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic softball at Tokyo 2020

And introducing...

A number of sports will have new disciplines or events for Tokyo 2020, either to appeal to a younger demographic of fans or as part of the move towards full gender equality which continues apace.

In basketball, countries will go for gold for the first time in 3X3.

READ: Top five things to know about Olympic 3X3 basketball at Tokyo 2020

BMX freestyle is a new cycling discipline at the Games, while the madison has been restored to the track cycling programme.

There are three new events in swimming - the women's 1500m freestyle for women, the men's 800m freestyle, and the mixed 4x100m medley relay.

Another mixed relay joins the athletics programme, where there will also be a mixed 4x400m relay on the track.

In shooting, three new mixed team events will take place: mixed trap, mixed 10m air pistol and mixed 10m air rifle.

And in archery, there will also be a new mixed team competition.

Venues for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 2021

Tokyo's New National Stadium will be the focal point of the Games in 2021.

The Opening Ceremony, athletics, and football will be held there, as well as the Closing Ceremony.

It is constructed with a hybrid wood and steel frame, with the wood in the roof structure comes from all 47 Japanese prefectures.

The New National Stadium takes shape (pictured on 29 January 2019)

The Urban Park concept which proved so successful at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games will also be in operation.

BMX and skateboarding will take place at Ariake Urban Sports Park with Aomi Urban Sports Park staging sport climbing and 3X3 basketball.

There are also four existing venues which were used at the 1964 Olympic Games.

These are Tokyo National Gymnasium (table tennis), Yoyogi National Stadium (handball), Nippon Budokan (judo and karate), and Equestrian Park.

Nippon Budokan, built to host judo at the 1964 Games, will stage judo and karate

Tokyo may be the hub, but there are a number of events held in outlying venues.

Baseball and softball will be held in the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in the east of Japan, in the prefecture most affected by the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Just north of Fukushima is Miyagi, another city hit by the tsunami, which will host football preliminary games and quarter-finals.

The furthest outpost for the Games is Sapporo, some 850km north of the capital, which will stage football group matches, as well as the athletics race walks and marathons.

Kashima, on the east coast of Japan's main Honshu island 100km east of Tokyo, will host much of the two football tournaments including semi-finals and the women's bronze medal match.

Kashima Soccer Stadium, home of AFC Champions League holders Kashima Antlers, will stage football at Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 medals

A total of 5,000 medals will be awarded at the Games in 2021, taking into account multiple medals in team events.

The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project aimed to use 100 percent recycled metal in their construction, with the public passing on old household appliances to make 'Everyone's Medals'.

Mobile phones, computers and digital cameras were among the items requested.

It is worth noting that the only physical difference between a gold and a silver medal is at least six grams of gold plating, while bronze is an alloy of copper and tin.

The mascots of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics

Children in Japanese schools at home and abroad voted for the mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic Games from a choice of three finalist pairs.

On 28 February 2018, it was announced that two fox-like characters had won but their names were not revealed until last July.

Of the 205,755 total votes, Miraitowa and Someity – as they would later be called – drew 109,041 votes in a landslide victory.

The Olympic Games mascot, Miraitowa, combines the Japanese words for 'future' and 'eternity'.

The name of the Paralympic Games mascot, Someity, is derived from a cherry blossom variety Someiyoshino, and sounds like the English "so mighty".

Miraitowa's head and body have the same indigo blue ichimatsu patterns as the Tokyo 2020 Games emblem.

Its personality stems from a traditional Japanese proverb meaning "to learn old things well and to acquire new knowledge from them”.

This article was first published in March 2019, and last updated on 13th April 2021.