Tokyo 2020 to be a Games for the modern era

By SWL staff
May 21 2020, 12.00

TOKYO 2020 will be the Olympic Games, but not as we know it.

The 22nd Olympiad will now take place in 2021, between 23 July and 8th August, and promises to be a Games for the modern era.

That’s not just because of the four brands of futuristic robots that will be in place to help athletes, coaches and spectators around the venues.

The programme of sports has been radically expanded. 28 sports featured at Rio 2016 and that will grow to 33 in Tokyo. That’s the biggest single spike in the number of sports since just after the First World War, when one of the lesser-known hosts, Antwerp, staged 22 sports – including tug of war.

Traditional favourites like athletics, swimming, gymnastics and rowing will be joined by the new kids on the block – climbing, surfing, skateboarding, karate and baseball.

In 2017, a survey commissioned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) revealed that 21% of young people who tuned in to London 2012 turned off for Rio 2016. Faced with an ageing audience and a battle to remain relevant, the IOC responded by turning to broadcast-friendly ‘action sports’ that appeal to young audiences.

So prepare for Hawaii to become an Olympic powerhouse and to watch on with envy as 11-year-old Brazilians pull off triple flips that you only dared to dream of on a Tony Hawk video game.

Change is in the air but some things remain the same and the same nations will be fighting it out for top spot in the medal table.

USA have finished top of the tree at five of the last six Olympic Games and they are as short as 1/10 with 888 sports betting to repeat the trick in Tokyo.

The last nation to knock the Stars and Stripes off the summit was China – on home soil in Beijing in 2008 – and they are 6/1 to do so in Japan next summer.

Winning gold medals at Olympic Games has become a Great British pastime in recent years and Team GB have increased their medal tally at each of the last five Games, a global record.

Rio 2016 was Britain’s most successful Games since 1908 – they even managed to win more medals, 67, than they did with home advantage in London four years earlier where they won 65. You can have a 13/1 punt on Britain to come out on top of the medal table in 2021.

Among dead certs to defend their Olympic titles are swimming star Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock on the pommel horse, Liam Heath in canoe sprint and Jade Jones on the taekwondo tatami.

Leading the way in the blue riband track & field events will be Dina Asher-Smith and Katarina Johnson-Thompson, shooting for the stars after both landing World Championships gold in 2019.

Asher-Smith will have Jamaican legend Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce to get past in the 100m but will also take on the 200m, in which she won gold in Doha.

Johnson-Thompson joined the likes of Jessica Ennis, Denise Lewis and Mary Peters in winning heptathlon gold on the global stage.

In the new sports, Runcorn-born climber Shauna Coxsey won a combined bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships, the format that will make its debut at Tokyo 2020.

Then of course there’s history-mak Sky Brown, likely to appear at the Olympic aged 12, with half-a-million Instagram followers under her belt and a genuine chance of winning a medal.

Never underestimate home advantage, either, and Japan should pack a punch despite being a distant 17/1 to top the medal table.

Spain, Mexico, Italy, Greece, Finland, USA, China and Australia have all enjoyed their record medal hauls at a home Olympics and Japan should do something similar.

TokyWhoever ends up with the biggest share of the spoils, we’ll all be glued to our sofas for two weeks next summer as the world’s biggest show rolls into town.

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