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A look at Tokyo's 2020 Summer Olympics prep, one year out

Illustration of Japanese flag with the olympics logo
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The 2020 Summer Olympics will open in Tokyo, Japan, exactly one year from today.

The state of play: After years of coaxing host cities to splurge on stadiums and other expenses, the International Olympic Committee is trying to rebrand the Olympics as "cost-sensitive." Tokyo 2020 could be the last of a dying breed, with a budget of around $25 billion and a handful of lavish projects to its name.

  • It has awarded the next two Summer Games to Paris and Los Angeles, both of whom promised to use existing venues and control costs. Paris estimates it can stage the Olympics for $8 billion, while L.A's latest projection is $7 billion.

Sponsorship success: Local sponsorship revenue has already surpassed $3 billion, three times the previous record set by London in 2012. How'd they do it? By tapping into Japan's strong sense of national pride.

"There's definitely a culture in Japan where, if it's in the country's best interest, signing up [as a sponsor] is almost required. ... I mean, the guy who runs Tokyo 2020 is a former prime minister, so there's very much a sense of loyalty to making sure that this national event goes as well as possible."
— Freelance Olympics journalist Aaron Bauer (read his newsletter)

Weather threat: Organizers are worried that an extreme heat wave could hit the Olympics following record temperatures last year that killed almost 100 people.

  • Solution: Tokyo's roads are currently being resurfaced with a reflective material, and all 2020 marathon events have already been moved up to 6 a.m. local time to avoid the heat.

Preventing congestion: There is a fear that the arrival of over half a million foreign and domestic tourists will overload Tokyo's notoriously strained public transit system.

  • Solution: Over half a million Tokyo residents are being asked to work from home during the Olympics. Remote work isn't really a thing in Japan the way it is here, so they've been holding practice days to prepare.
  • Fun fact: Tokyo's Shinjuku Station is the world's busiest train station (3.6 million daily passengers and 200 exits).

Huge ticket demand: Last month's lottery saw 7.5 million people register for the chance to buy 3.2 million tickets. Demand is so high that one analyst estimates 80%–90% of Japan residents who applied for tickets could end up with nothing.

"This is probably going to be the most popular Olympics, and possibly one of the most popular events of all time. I'm interested in seeing ... how the organizing committee addresses this. It's good news for the demand, and bad news [for] the public."
— Ken Hanscom, COO of TicketManager, per AP

Go deeper: Tokyo's skyline is growing ahead of 2020 Olympics