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This year isn’t just heralding the beginning of a new decade — in a matter of months, Tokyo will be home to the sporting world as it hosts the Summer Olympics 2020, welcoming an estimated incredible amount of 10 million visitors to the city for the games! With the Olympics preparation at its penultimate moments, Neue will uncover the details of what Tokyo has in store for the rest of the world, as well as its journey in becoming a ‘global standard’ city.

The 2020 Olympics will officially kick off on 24th July with an opening ceremony in Tokyo, as well as preliminary softball and football matches on 22nd July. The Games will run until 9th August, with a two-week breather, before it resumes with the Paralympics on 25th August to 6th September.Olympics sees new sports added

A total of five new sports will be added to the Olympics roster, bringing the number up to 33 as the Games recognise the trend of urbanisation in sport, the youth-focused aspect of the decision to bring in the five sports, as well as the popularity of said sports in Japan.

Baseball and softball, while not necessarily a new sport makes its awaited return to the Olympics in a country with a notable fervour for the sport, in addition to skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing. Finally, karate also makes a fitting debut in the Tokyo Olympics, with the martial arts events taking place in the Nippon Budokan, the historic home to martial arts events in the city.

Some of the existing sports will be seeing some changes as well, such as the addition of a 3-on-3 variant, which is a half-court game with a single basketball hoop, reminiscent of street basketball. Sports such as boxing, canoe and kayaking as well as rowing will seek to promote gender equality by reducing the number of men’s weight divisions and events, while increasing the women’s, thereby allowing them to compete on a more equal platform.Sustainable and eco-friendly measures for Tokyo’s Olympics

With one of the biggest issues facing an Olympic host city being the deterioration of venues and facilities after the millions spent in creating them, only to see them go to waste, Tokyo has approached the situation with the idea of building less, and reusing more.

The Heritage Zone will house many of the iconic sites from the 1964 Tokyo Games, as a reminder of the legacy of the events and will play a part in building more sustainable efforts to create one of the most eco-friendly Olympics Games to date. In addition, the Olympic Stadium, which was used in the 1964 Games, had recently finished undergoing reconstruction and was renamed the New National Stadium, with a design that celebrates Japan’s traditional architecture while incorporating elements of nature, such as a walkway lined with benches, flowers and trees known as the Grove of the Sky, and the wood latticework on the roof eaves.

Another way Japan seeks to employ sustainable strategies for the Games is through the creation of the renowned Olympic medals. All 5,000 medals will be made of recycled metal from 6.2 million used mobile phones and IT gadgets that had either been donated or were retrieved nationwide. In fact, the Olympic torch is made from aluminium waste, while the podiums are built from recycled household and marine plastic waste.

Renewable energy sources will also be used to power the venues, further promoting the image of Tokyo as a technologically advanced yet environmentally-conscious city.

Aside from the Heritage Zone, the Tokyo Bay Zone is a newly constructed site that was specifically built for the 2020 Games, and both zones extend across the city to form a symbol of infinity, with the Olympic Village located where the zones are linked.

New attractions open in 2020

With the Olympics set to take over the summer of 2020, you might be wondering what else there is to look forward to in Japan — fret not, for a number of attractions are also opening up this year prior to the Games!

In Tokyo, the Ariake Garden City will open in the first half of 2020 at Tokyo Bay, consisting around 170 shops and 750 hotel rooms. New attractions will also be unveiled at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea, perfect for the young and the young at heart to enjoy.

If you’re looking to venture outside of Tokyo, the National Ainu Museum in Hokkaido opens in April this year, and it houses the history of the Ainu people, who are indigenous people that lived in the north of Japan and Russia. And if you’re a fan of Japanese anime and manga, Osaka’s Universal Studios Japan (USJ) will be offering new Mario-themed attractions such as Mario Kart just before the Olympics!

Main Olympic and sporting venues

Held across nine prefectures, most of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will take place in the city itself, specifically the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone, with other venues including the Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido, where football matches will be held, and the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima. It was also recently announced that marathons will be held in cooler Sapporo in a bid to be away from Tokyo’s summer heat.

The Heritage Zone contains around ten venues, housing some of the more popular sports and events, including the opening and closing ceremonies in the newly reconstructed New National Stadium, where athletics and football matches will also be held. Other sports also include judo and karate, which will be held at Nippon Budokan; the Ajinomoto Stadium, which will be simply known as the Tokyo Stadium during the Olympics, is home to the FC Tokyo and a major J-league football stadium and will see football matches as well, as well as rugby and modern pentathlon.

On the other side of the main Olympics event area, the Tokyo Bay Zone will see plenty more sports action, including a few of the new sports such as the 3-on-3 basketball matches and sports climbing, which will be held at the Aomi Urban Sports Park. On the opposite side of Tokyo Bay, surfing will be held at Tsurigasaki Beach in Chiba, with its events dependent on the condition of the weather and the waves.

A number of sports and events will also be carried out away from Tokyo, notably baseball and softball, and the marathons. Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium, located outside Fukushima city and two hours away from Tokyo by train, will be hosting the opening baseball game on 29th July, as well as six softball games on the 22nd and 23rd — this was a significant choice, as the Japanese Olympic Committee are determined to show that the region has largely recovered from the magnitude 9 earthquake in 2011. And for the first time ever, both men’s baseball and women’s softball Olympics events will be held in the same venues during the Tokyo Games 2020, ensuring that there would be no need to build entirely separate facilities, while ensuring both sports can be played on the same field, such as creating an innovative retractable pitcher’s mound so the field can transform from a baseball to a softball field.

However, if you’re planning to catch the marathon events, make sure you’ve got your flight tickets to Sapporo! In an effort to be away from the sweltering heat of Tokyo’s summer, the city of Sapporo, located in the northern island of Hokkaido will be hosting five Olympics events: the men’s and women’s marathon, men’s and women’s 20km race-walk, and the men’s 50 km race-walk. Sapporo, which was the host of the 1972 Winter Olympics, will also be aiming to create a secondary local “village” to house all the athletes, coaches and staff, which will number approximately around 1,000.Look forward to Tokyo’s summer events and festivals

If you have the chance to visit Tokyo prior to the Games, there are plenty of activities and events to look forward to! While the country gears up towards the Olympic Games, several tournaments are also being held, such as the sumo wrestling tournaments that are held six times a year.

The Tokyo tournament in 2020 will be happening from 10th to 24th May at Kokugikan Sumo Stadium, with tickets going on sale on 4th April. On the other hand, if you’re going to be around just before the Tokyo Games, why not hop on a short 1-hour flight to Nagoya in the meantime? The sumo wrestling tournament in Nagoya will be held from 5th to 19th July at Aichi Prefectural Gymnasium, with tickets going on sale from 23rd May onwards.

In 2019, the ‘Ready Steady Tokyo’ campaign was launched as Tokyo embarked on a year-long schedule of test events for the Olympics. With 56 test events scheduled to run until May, there’s bound to be a tournament for you to enjoy, even before the actual Games themselves! Find out more about what events are being held, including the dates and locations here.

Summer in Japan is synonymous with festivals, and the Olympic Games are made even more exciting as the city bursts into vibrant colours, great food, and fireworks on a clear summer night! So don on a yukata, and get ready to experience some of these amazing events happening in July, right in Tokyo city itself.

The Marine Lantern Festival is a celebration of ‘Marine Day’, and sees many people visiting the beach on this day, with parks and aquariums holding events to celebrate the importance of the ocean. Held at Odaiba Seaside Park on 15th July at 6.30pm to 10pm, the festival will see thousands of coloured lanterns lit along the beach lit by volunteers, with activities, freshly grilled seafood and live music to accompany the event. With the famous Rainbow Bridge and skyscrapers in the background, the entire setting makes for a beautiful scenery to enjoy with friends and loved ones!Another summer festival that’s not to be missed is the Kagurazaka Matsuri, happening from 22nd July to 25th July in the trendy Kagurazaka neighbourhood. It’s commonly known as the biggest summer festival in the area, with the event being split into two parts: a Hozuki Market for the first two days, where you can pick up a Japanese lantern plant from the Bishamonten Zenkoku-ji temple and enjoy food from an entire street lined with food stalls; and the Awa-Odori Taika, where dancers and musicians will form a procession and dance along the Kagurazaka-Dori street as they perform traditional dances.

And if you’re in Japan during the summer, one of the most anticipated events is a fireworks festival, or a hanabi, and some are happening right before the Games too! The Katsushika Fireworks Festival will be held at the Shibamata Baseball Field on 7th July, from 7.20pm to 8.20pm. You can witness an incredible display of 13,000 fireworks going off, along with an estimated number of 800,000 spectators together to watch the show!

While there may be a fewer number of fireworks festivals this year due to the Olympics, the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival, arguably the biggest and most popular fireworks event in Tokyo during the summer, is still happening! As of now, it will be held on 11th July at two locations: Asakusa and Taito Riverside Sports Center, but the date is still subject to change, depending on preparation for the Olympics. Nevertheless, this is a sight that shouldn’t be missed, with a show that runs from 7pm for a full 90 minutes, drawing nearly 1 million people to the event!

Here are some key things to remember if you’re planning to go! Book a spot early in the day, because most of the key viewing spots will be gone by the afternoon, or you could buy tickets to roof terrace events well in advance. For prime viewing spots that might not be too crowded, you can find a spot at Shiori Park, with the closest station being Minamisenju Station, or Oyokogawa Water Park, near the Tokyo Skytree station. However, be prepared to deal with crowds wherever you go, because this is truly the most anticipated hanabi of the year in Tokyo.

Visa helps Japan go cashless

With Visa acting as the Worldwide Payment Technology Partner of the Olympic Games, the organisation plans to create new and innovative payment experiences for athletes, visitors and citizens of the host city by encouraging the acceptance of digital payment. For a nation that possesses one of the largest global economies, Japan’s commerce is still mainly cash-based, but that’s bound to change with a number of initiatives by Visa.

As Visa addresses the lack of convenience, it will be working with merchants from varying categories, including Quick Service Restaurants, transit and convenience stores, while also upgrading and enabling contactless point-of-sale (POS) prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

In addition to that, Visa has also recently launched the Visa Fintech Fast-Track, which will make it easier for fintechs to build and create new digital commerce experiences on Visa’s payments network. The organisation also partnered with LINE Pay Corporation to encourage the adoption of digital payment on the LINE messaging app.

With every Games, Visa strives to innovate payment experiences — for example, during the Rio Olympics 2016, payment-enabled rings were given to its Team Visa athletes, while the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018 saw Visa selling wearable products such as gloves and lapel pins that could be used to make payments over contactless payment readers.Using a credit card in Japan

While Japan may still be more of a cash-based society, there are still a lot of places where you can use your Visa credit card! For restaurants, you can check online Japanese restaurant guides as they’ll state if credit cards are accepted, as well as what types can be used. There is usually a sign near the front door of an establishment stating if credit card payment is available. But if you’re looking to dine at restaurants with a ticket machine for food tickets, those places will only accept cash.

Major chain stores as well as souvenir stores also accept credit cards, which means shopping should be a breeze! And you can also use your credit card at most souvenir stores, so there’s no excuse to not bring home a piece of this lovely country.

A chance to experience the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Now that you’re a little more acquainted with the city, perhaps it’s time to book a flight to Tokyo and explore the place yourself!

Royal Brunei Airlines (RB) flies directly to Narita International Airport in Tokyo, which is a little under two hours from the centre of the city, ensuring that you get the most out of your trip in this amazing metropolitan paradise.

And here’s some more good news: Standard Chartered Bank is also offering a fantastic deal for those looking to apply for its SC Visa credit cards during the promotional period of 15th January, 2020 to 30th April, 2020!

Apply for a Standard Chartered Visa credit card, and be entitled to annual fee waivers as well as great prizes to be won; new applicants who spend during the promotional period will also double their chances to win in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 Lucky Draw, while existing cardholders who spend BND50 during the promotion will also receive a chance to win in the draw.

If you’re a sports fanatic, or if one item of your bucket list includes watching an Olympics event live, the grand prize is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime deal, as it includes two return tickets to Tokyo, along with tickets to two Olympic sporting events! Plus, you’ll also get to explore the city with an organised tour as well as airport transport, and transportation to all the activities scheduled, including a luxurious stay at the Intercontinental Tokyo Bay Hotel.

For more information, you can click here.

Excited for the 2020 Olympics?

What sports are you looking forward to watch? Have a favourite athlete to root for? Let us know in the comments below, or reach out to Neue via Facebook or Instagram.