20 things to know about the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo

Jack Baer

The 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang have officially wrapped up and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo are next up for the world’s greatest athletes to congregate. In Tokyo, we’ll see advanced technology, some exciting new sports and even more exciting athletes looking to make their names on the world stage.

Here’s what you need to know about Tokyo 2020, the next Olympic Games.

1. This is the second time Tokyo has hosted the Olympics

Japan is no stranger to the Olympics, with the country having already hosted three Games with the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo and the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano. The 2020 Olympics will make Japan the third-most frequent Olympic host country in history with four, behind only the United States (nine) and France (six). We can expect to see plenty of venues from the 1964 Olympics used in 2020, as they make up a good chunk of Tokyo’s planned Heritage Zone.

The Olympic Games are heading to Tokyo, the fourth time they will have visited the country of Japan. (Getty Images)
The Olympic Games are heading to Tokyo, the fourth time they will have visited the country of Japan. (Getty Images)

This is also the second of three straight Games hosted in Asia, with the PyeongChang Games in South Korea having just wrapped up and the 2022 Winter Olympics on tap in Beijing, China. So get ready to stay up until the wee hours of the morning again if you want to take in as much Olympic action as possible.

2. Tokyo beat out Istanbul and Madrid

The Japanese Olympic Committee had to beat out two of the biggest cities in Europe to land the 2020 Olympics. Tokyo won the first round of voting at the 125th IOC Session in 2013 with 42 votes, but didn’t win outright as it didn’t have a majority of the 94 votes. A second round won Tokyo the Games with 60 votes, beating Istanbul.

Among the obstacles the Tokyo bid faced were worries about the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster that was going on at the time, but concerns there have been appeased enough that Fukushima itself has been approved to host some baseball and softball games.

3. This is going to be a very expensive Olympics

Tokyo organizers initially estimated the cost of the Olympics to run around 730 billion yen (around 6.8 billion dollars), but it’s become clear that was an ambitiously low total. More recent estimates put the cost for all Games-related expenses at around 2.16 trillion yen (around 20 billion dollars). While that is big chunk of change, it’s not even close to the money spent on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi ($50 billion) or the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing ($40 billion).

4. The main Olympic Stadium initially looked like a turtle

While many 1964 venues are planned to be re-used, the Tokyo Olympic Stadium is being built from the ground up and its construction has been turbulent, to say the least. An initial design that had been criticized by one prominent architect for looking like a turtle was eventually scrapped by prime minister Shinzo Abe after rising costs put it on pace to be the most expensive sports stadium in the world.

A new design was soon selected, promising a much cheaper, yet more plain stadium, as you can see below.

The Tokyo Olympic Stadium will be located in the Shinjuku district of Japan. (Getty Images)
The Tokyo Olympic Stadium will be located in the Shinjuku district of Japan. (Getty Images)

5. The future is going to be on full display in Tokyo

A fleet of driverless cars. Facial recognition on a mass scale. Luggage-assistance robots at airports. A security network of tens of thousands of cameras and microphones. A MAN-MADE METEOR SHOWER.

6. Tokyo is the safest city in the world

While there were worries that the high rate of violent crimes in Rio de Janeiro would dampen tourism during the 2016 Olympics, there will be no such concerns in 2020. Tokyo has been consistently ranked as one of the safest cities in the world, if not the most safe. So feel free to party hard into the night, tourists.

7. The medals are going to be made of phones

You may or may not know this, but there is probably real, literal gold in your smartphone. It’s not a lot, just enough to act as an electrical conductor, but it’s there. The Tokyo 2020 organizers are planning to make use of that, starting an initiative for the Japanese population to e-cycle its old phones and computers so they can be mined for the precious metals used to make the medals for 2020. Environmental and cheap? Not bad, Tokyo.

8. There could be apocalyptic transport congestion

Tokyo is known for plenty of good things. One thing it is not known for is uncrowded roads and trains. Public transport is already infamously packed on Tokyo. Add an Olympic audience and you have a problem. Japanese officials are aware of this and trying to combat it, doing things like relocating the biggest fish market in the world and introducing telework days to reduce the amount of commuters.

9. No, really, 3-on-3 basketball is now an Olympic sport

The IOC has dealt with its fair share of scandals and screw-ups in recent years, but they deserve applause on at least one thing: They’ve found a way to add more basketball to the Olympics. 3-on-3 basketball has been added to the Games and it is going to be glorious. We’re probably not going to see many of the NBA’s elite participating and the rules could be a little wonky, but come on, Olympic street ball. Feel the hype.

10. Baseball and softball make their return

Remember Olympic baseball and softball? They’re back! After missing the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, the IOC has re-added the two sports, just in time for a Games hosted by one of the most baseball-crazed countries in the world.

Nationals star Stephen Strasburg was among the baseball players in Beijing. (AP Photo)
Nationals star Stephen Strasburg was among the baseball players in Beijing. (AP Photo)

We still won’t see any MLB players taking part, but there’s a good chance we’ll see some stars of tomorrow. Just look at the baseball rosters from 2008, where you’ll find future MLB All-Stars Stephen Strasburg, Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish and Dexter Fowler. On the softball side, the U.S. team remains one of the best in the world and a matchup against Japan for the gold medal on their rival’s home turf would make for appointment viewing.

11. Skateboarding makes its Olympic debut, possibly with Shaun White in tow

Another high-profile addition to the Games, visitors will be able take in skateboarding for the first time. The program won’t be as expansive as the X-Games, with only park and street events planned for men and women, but a crossover appearance from snowboarder and sometimes-skateboarder Shaun White could help the sport get off the ground.

12. The other new sports are pretty cool too

The IOC sent out a clear signal that it’s interested in a more youthful viewership with all of its new sports. In addition to skateboarding, we’ll also be seeing surfing, sport climbing and karate (duh, Japan) in the Games for the first time ever. Those are fun and all, but what if we combined them? I can’t be the only one that thinks a triathlon where you surf up to the coast, climb a beach-side cliff and fight someone at the top would be pretty cool. Don’t ask me how it would be scored.

13. Track enters the post-Usain Bolt era

With Usain Bolt now retired and enjoying life, the chase is on to replace the greatest sprinter of all time at the top of the medal stand in the 100-meter dash. With current 100-meter world champion Justin Gatlin still fighting father time at age 36, American hopes will likely rest on 21-year-old Christian Coleman. Another pair of big shoes to fill is located in the decathlon, where two-time gold medalist Ashton Eaton has retired.

14. Swimming enters the post-Michael Phelps era

The most decorated athlete in Olympic history has hung up his goggles. Unless he decides to put them back on again. Assuming Phelps is content with his retirement this time, the swimming world will prepare for its first Phelps-less Games since the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. USA swimming will probably be just fine in the medal count even without Phelps, considering it still has 2017 world champions like Caeleb Dressel, Lilly King, Simone Manuel, Chase Kalisz and, of course…

15. Katie Ledecky hits Tokyo

Her name is Katie Ledecky and she is the most dominant swimmer of her generation. She might be the most dominant athlete of her generation. She made her debut in London as a 15-year-old in London and blew away the field in the 800m freestyle, then followed that up in Rio with four golds and a silver. Now poised to enter Tokyo as a 23-year-old and fully in her prime, she could compete in more events than ever.

Katie Ledecky may be the most dominant athlete of her generation. (AP Photo)
Katie Ledecky may be the most dominant athlete of her generation. (AP Photo)

The Olympics has added her best event to the program with the women’s 1500m freestyle and she has even started competing in individual medleys, smashing 2016 gold medalist Katinka Hosszu’s 400m NCAA record at the Pac-12 championships. We’ll see how many events Ledecky ends up competing in compared to her program of five in Rio, but get ready to see this woman everywhere, from medal podiums to Coke ads.

16. Simone Biles makes her return

Another breakout athlete from the 2016 Olympics, Simone Biles has plenty of gold medals to defend. Currently 20 years old, Biles is currently on a hiatus from competitive gymnastics, but you can expect her to be back and flipping in Tokyo. She figures to lead a U.S. gymnastics team that will be looking to three-peat in the team competition. With that said…

17. The USA gymnastics scandal will linger

There’s no hiding it, there’s no forgetting it. Larry Nassar will spend the rest of his life in prison, but there is no doubt the staggering amount of victims left in his wake will cast a shadow over USA gymnastics for years, and especially in Tokyo. It’s a difficult topic, but important to remember as similar scandals are rooted out in other sports.

18. USA women’s soccer team looks for redemption while the men look for something

Team USA owns four of the six gold medals handed out in women’s soccer in Olympic history, but Rio represented a painful miss. The Americans fell in a quarterfinal shootout to Sweden, failing to medal in the Olympics for the first time in Olympic history. You can bet they’ll be working hard to avoid a similar result in 2020.

Meanwhile, the men’s team, restricted to mostly under-23 players, will be trying to medal for the first time since 1904, when only three teams competed.

19. Russia makes its “return” to the Olympics

Hey, look, the entire country of Russia was forced to sit out they PyeongChang Olympics by the IOC, but they’re likely to be back in Tokyo having learned their lesson. Except that 168 Olympic Athletes from Russia were allowed to compete, even in team formats. And their fans showed up in full force and clad in Team Russia gear. And two of those OAR athletes, only allowed in because they were supposedly clean, still tested positive for banned substances. And some OAR athletes still sang the Russian national anthem and criticized the Russian ban even though not doing that was among the conditions they agreed to in order to compete. And that President Vladimir Putin ordered an alternative Olympics for his country’s banned athletes.

Other than all that stuff, why would anyone think that Russia hasn’t gotten what it deserved for running a state-sponsored doping program that made a mockery of the Sochi Games?

Russia figures to back in full force for the 2020 Olympics. (AP Photo)
Russia figures to back in full force for the 2020 Olympics. (AP Photo)

20. A decade of the Olympics’ Greatest Hits is starting

Tokyo has already hosted an Olympics, but it’s not alone in that fact among other Olympic sites of the new decade. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris and the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, the IOC will essentially by playing its greatest hits collection for the next 10 years.

More Olympic coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Meet the unlikely, unfazed and unparalleled gold medalists of U.S. Olympic curling
Canadian Olympian arrested after alleged drunken car theft in PyeongChang
The 2018 Olympic moments that will make you cry
Green Beret competing in Olympics for more than a medal
Vic Wild’s rant contains a deep, dark truth about Olympics