All you need to know about Tokyo 2020 sustainability

From the hydrogen-powered cauldron to medals made from recycled mobile phones, from gender balance to the first official Pride House, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are blazing a trail for the future. Here’s everything you need to know about how Tokyo 2020 is helping build a better, more sustainable world through sport. 

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village IOC

Reduce, reuse, recycle

  • Only eight new competition venues have been built from scratch. Some 25 of the 43 Olympic and Paralympic venues existed before the Games – some of them used at the Olympic Games Tokyo 1964. Many of them have been retrofitted with advanced building technologies to reduce energy consumption. Another 10 venues are temporary structures designed to minimise construction costs and energy use.
  • The Olympic torch was produced using aluminium waste from temporary housing built in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake. Even the T-shirts and trousers worn by torchbearers were made from recycled plastic bottles collected by Coca-Cola.
  • Metals salvaged from nearly 79,000 tonnes of smart phones and other electronic equipment donated by the Japanese public – known as “urban mines” – have been used to make the 5,000 Olympic and Paralympic medals.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic podium Tokyo 2020
  • As part of an initiative by Worldwide Olympic Partner P&G, medallists will stand on podiums made from recycled plastic waste.
  • Ninety-nine percent of all goods procured for the Games will be reused or recycled. For example, timber donated by more than 60 municipalities for Operation BATON (Building Athletesvillage with Timber Of the Nation) for the Olympic Village Plaza will be dismantled after the Games and returned to communities for reuse.
  • Organisers have hired much of the equipment rather than buying it. Some 65,000 computers, tablets and electrical appliances, together with 19,000 office desks, chairs and other fixtures that have been rented for the Games, will be returned and reused after the Games finish.
  • Athletes will sleep on 18,000 beds made from recyclable cardboard. Weightlifters and shot-putters need not be alarmed, however: the frames are more than two metres long and support up to 200 kilograms! Even the mattresses can be recycled into plastic products.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Village IOC

Beyond carbon neutral

  • Much of the energy for Tokyo 2020 comes from renewable sources, including solar arrays and wood biomass power, which uses construction waste and tree clippings in Japan to produce electricity.
  • The Ariake Urban Sports Park, which hosts the BMX freestyle, BMX racing and skateboarding events, is powered completely by renewable solar electricity produced in Fukushima, the scene of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
  • Where it has not been possible to use renewable energy, Tokyo 2020 is using green power certificates to compensate the use of non-renewable electricity.
  • Tokyo will go beyond carbon neutrality by offsetting more carbon emissions than it emits. The Games’ carbon offsetting programme covers all direct and indirect emissions, including transport and construction.
  • Under Japan’s carbon cap-and-trade programme, carbon credits will offset around 720,000 tonnes of CO2 expected to be emitted in Tokyo over the four days of the Olympic and Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG)  has pledged to halve greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the city by 2030 (compared to 2000 levels) and to increase the use of renewable energy by around 50 percent.
  • Clean hydrogen fuelled the Olympic torch for part of its journey, and will light the Olympic and Paralympic cauldrons.
  • A hydrogen station has been installed nearby. After the Games, the Village will be turned into hydrogen-powered flats, a school, shops and other facilities.
  • A fleet of 500 hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) cars has been provided by Worldwide Olympic Partner Toyota as part of the official Olympic fleet.
Tokyo 2020 IOC / Matthew Jordan Smith

Gender equality, diversity and inclusion

  • Tokyo 2020 is the first gender-balanced Olympic Games, with 49 per cent of the athletes taking part female and 51 per cent male;
  • For the first time, a department of Female Athlete Medicine in the Olympic/Paralympic Village polyclinic has been set up to provide comprehensive medical support for female athletes.
  • Under the leadership of Tokyo 2020 President Hashimoto Seiko, in March 2021, Tokyo 2020 appointed 12 additional women to its Executive Board, boosting its female representation from 20 to 42 per cent.
  • The Games Organising Committee has a special department dedicated to diversity and inclusion, under the tagline: “Know Differences, Show Differences”.
  • The chequered design of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic emblems represents different countries, cultures and ways of thinking. Its message of “Unity in Diversity” promotes diversity as a platform to connect the world.
  • The first permanent LGBTQ+ centre was established in Tokyo, called Pride House Tokyo. It aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues through the creation of hospitality spaces, hosting of events, and production of diverse content. It is the first ever Pride House officially recognised by the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Athlees at the Olympic Village IOC / Matthew Jordan Smith

Building for the future

  • The two main Olympic zones – the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone – are designed to build on the best of the past for a sustainable future.
  • The Heritage Zone repurposes several iconic venues used at the Tokyo 1964 Games, including the table tennis venue at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and the world-famous Nippon Budokan.
  • The new Japan National Stadium – home to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies – incorporates giant eaves to allow cooling breezes to circulate freely. The eaves, a feature of traditional Japanese architecture, are designed to use natural wind instead of air conditioning.
Tokyo Bay, Odaiba Marine Park and the Tokyo Olympic beach volleyball stadium Getty Images 2021
  • In contrast, the ultra-modern Tokyo Bay Zone is a model for innovative urban development which will revitalise the Tokyo waterfront, with improved transport and access to the bay area. Among the 16 venues are the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, which can adjust the length and depth of its pools by moving floors and walls and is powered by solar energy and a ground heat exchanger.
  • The Olympic Village – which sits at the intersection of the two zones – lies on reclaimed land and The Olympic Village – which sits at the intersection of the two zones – lies on reclaimed land and includes a “relaxation house”in Harumi Port Park where athletes can rest and recharge. Electricity used by the facility is generated with hydrogen using pure-hydrogen fuel cells.
  • After the Games, it will become Japans first hydrogen-powered town and a model for future hydrogen-based societies.
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