10 ways the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be different this year


The embattled 2020 Tokyo Olympics—pushed to 2021 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic however nonetheless bearing final year’s branding—appears to lastly kick off this Friday in Japan. The historic sporting pageant is scheduled to begin after greater than a year in limbo, whilst its organizing chief declined to rule out an eleventh hour cancellation as lately as Tuesday.

Its rocky, controversial highway to the opening ceremony is the first signal that these video games will be dramatically not like these previous. Listed below are a few of the ways:

No followers

Maybe the most stark of variations, Tokyo’s stadiums constructed to accommodate tens of 1000’s will be almost devoid of individuals, save the lone athletes at their facilities and a smattering of socially distanced workforce members and journalists.

No cheering

The handful of approved spectators will be requested to easily clap, and chorus from shouting or cheering. Indicators will be posted imploring: “Clap, don’t sing or chant.” Guidelines apart, there will not be sufficient of them to kind a rowdy crowd.

No handshakes or excessive fives

Sportsmanship has lengthy been a trademark of the storied Olympic custom, however this year, it will need to be conveyed by different means. Maybe the handshake’s pandemic cousin, the germ-evasive elbow bump. Or a thumbs-up.

Athletes in isolation

In previous years, Olympic athletes loved roaming their overseas host cities—discovering well-liked vacationer websites, viewing nationwide landmarks, tasting native meals, and being noticed as celebrities about city. This year, that’s out of the query. Athletes are successfully quarantined for worry of contracting COVID-19 earlier than one in every of the most consequential performances of their lives. Some reportedly take all meals of their resort rooms, and depart solely to be shuttled to and from practices.

A pared again opening ceremony

Tokyo’s opening ceremony, which takes place Friday at 8 p.m. Japan time, will be sparsely populated, with solely 950 stakeholders as an viewers (in comparison with roughly 75,000 spectators for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro). A lot of the ceremony will be prerecorded, together with the bulk of the artist showcase. The heralded Parade of Nations, through which competing athletes march into the enviornment waving flags of their nations, will boast a brand new addition to its uniform: fashionable face masks designed to match the athletes’ tracksuits.

Face masks, in every single place

It’s not simply the opening ceremony: Anticipate to see masks in abundance—on officers, volunteers, referees, and athletes when not consuming, ingesting, or competing. Except for that, the solely determine you will most likely see unmasked is Japan’s olympic mascot, Miraitowa.


Contactless medal ceremonies

To be able to make the video games as contactless as attainable (for an occasion that celebrates dozens of contact sports activities), the hallowed Olympic medal ceremonies will see athletes grace themselves with golds, silvers, and bronzes—plucking them off trays held by gloved and sanitized volunteers and slinging them round their very own necks. In case you forgot what regular appears like, in pandemic-free instances, a high-ranking official bestows the medal over a winner’s bowed head.

4 new sports activities

A shiny spot in the video games will be the debut of 4 new sports activities, which Japan elected to introduce to the Olympic roster: karate, climbing, browsing, and skateboarding. It will additionally revive Olympic baseball and softball, and pilot new occasions together with 3×3 basketball and freestyle BMX. Officers say the 4 new additions, that are all categorized as “excessive sports activities,” are focused to encourage a youthful technology of viewers. This might hopefully dispel a few of the clouds over this year’s video games.

Athletes making political statements

The Worldwide Olympic Committee has traditionally sought to maintain the video games apolitical, infamously expelling American sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos for elevating a fist in the spirit of the civil rights motion throughout a medal ceremony at the 1968 Mexico Metropolis Video games. Certainly one of its constitution guidelines states, “no form of demonstration or political, non secular, or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic websites, venues, or different areas.” However as the instances have shifted, so has its stance: After a year through which deep-rooted injustices roiled the world, demonstrations will be allowed so long as they happen earlier than competitors and never at awards podiums. It will additionally enable footage of protests to be broadcast in media spotlight reels.

Protests from Japanese residents

However maybe most jarring is the absence of the nationwide satisfaction and honor lengthy related to internet hosting the Olympic Video games. For Japan, Olympics have punctuated watershed moments in the nation’s historical past—in 1912, its participation in the Stockholm video games ushered out its isolationist period, and in 1964, it reinvented itself after World Conflict II by internet hosting the summer season video games—however this year, in the wake of a devastating pandemic, Japanese residents are at finest cautious of the video games, and at worst angry that the nation’s officers seem to be placing blind ambition forward of constituents’ security.

Whereas Japan has achieved comparatively low numbers for COVID-19 circumstances, residents fear {that a} large worldwide pageant might render their sacrifices futile, and the resolution to maneuver ahead with the Olympics has sparked protests in the streets of Shinjuku. In Could, a ballot revealed 83% of Japanese residents opposed the video games, a startling majority for a nation that not often expresses such vehement disapproval.