The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are finally approaching, set to open on July 23. With sustainability as an important theme of the Games, there is growing attention surrounding the various initiatives being put into practice under the concept of “Be better, together – for the planet and the people.”
The Olympic symbol has been installed at the summit of Mt. Takao, a popular tourist spot in Tokyo. Visible in the distance is a well-known symbol of Japan: Mt. Fuji.
After a one-year delay, Tokyo 2020 is finally about to begin; all the eyes of the world will soon focus on the largest sports festival on the globe. In addition to the highest level of performance by elite athletes, it will also highlight a variety of themes that present key values by bringing together cutting-edge technology, traditional wisdom, and diverse people. Following a theme of sustainability, the Games are packed with ideas and technologies for the future of society.
The Olympic Stadium will be the main venue, hosting the opening and closing ceremonies as well as the athletic competitions. It is a “Stadium in Forest,” located in a lush, green environment that takes full advantage of the benefits of nature to produce a pleasant setting. Particularly noteworthy is a structural innovation that allows both athletes and spectators to stay comfortable, even in the hot summer. The Grand Eaves of the Wind and the Terrace of the Wind are designed to facilitate the flow of seasonal winds into the stadium. The incoming breeze can carry away the arena’s heat and humidity over the field and toward the exterior, riding on the updraft created by the sunbathed ground. That makes for an ecological stadium obviating the need for installing air-conditioning equipment in the stands.
The National Stadium was built to host the Olympic Games. The construction of the large, eye-catching eaves of the stadium features the extensive use of wood, emphasizing the Japanese approach of establishing symbiosis with nature. (Design Works and Construction Works of Taisei Corporation, Azusa Sekkei Co., Ltd. and Kengo Kuma and Associates JV/Courtesy of JSC)
The medals that the athletes will vie for also represent the sustainability concept of Tokyo 2020. All the approximately 5,000 medals prepared for the Games have been produced from metal extracted from unwanted mobile phones, small household appliances, and other devices collected from across Japan. Discarded electronics form a reservoir of resources known as an “urban mine,” because of the many valuable metals such as gold, silver, and copper, as well as precious minor metals, contained within them. With massive civic participation, the project gathered 32 kg of gold, 3,500 kg of silver, and 2,200 kg of copper to make the medals. This initiative continues today as a new project with a partnership between the government and companies to encourage the collection and recycling of small household appliances.
Furthermore, no less than 24.5 tons of used plastic was collected from the public to construct the podiums. These will be the first medals and podiums in Olympic history to be made from recycled materials that were collected with public participation.
The medals (left) and the podium prepared for the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. The fact that these remarkable symbols of Tokyo 2020 are made from recycled materials will likely linger in people’s memories as a significant legacy of the Games. ©Tokyo 2020
The Village Plaza, which serves as the gateway to the Olympic and Paralympic Village, is another deliverable created with the help of people from all across Japan. Though many Games in the past have used tents that were taken down afterwards, the structures of the Village Plaza are constructed from reusable materials. The temporary facility, built with the wooden architecture so distinctive of Japan, was also designed to provide a place of rest and relaxation for the athletes. Sixty-three municipalities across the archipelago, which stretches from north to south, provided a broad assortment of unique local woods that were assembled like a puzzle. The design resembles the checkered pattern of the Tokyo 2020 logos representing “Unity in Diversity.”
After the Games, the wood will be returned to each municipality, where it will be reused for such public amenities as benches and gazebos for parks and bookshelves in schools. The recycled objects are expected to promote the appeal of wood as the Games’ legacy. Wood naturally captures CO2 from the atmosphere, storing it as carbon long after being processed. Increasingly used as a steel and concrete substitute, it will help to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
The aroma and warmth of wood fills the air around the Village Plaza at the Olympic and Paralympic Village. This wood collected from across Japan will greet the athletes before and after their competitions. The Village Plaza is one of the facilities that symbolizes the sustainability concept of the Games.
Innovative efforts to create a sustainable society will be found throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. They present an excellent opportunity for people in Japan and around the world to become instilled with the mindset of sustainability. The huge summer events that will lead society to a more innovative future are almost here.