Olympics take new direction after surprise Tokyo 2020 success



The preparation for Tokyo 2020 was overshadowed by whether it should continue, but its success was such that the Games may have changed the Olympics as we know them.

man flying through the air while skateboarding: Sky Brown in action at the women's park finals - Getty

© Getty

Sky Brown in action during the Women’s Park Final


It all happened 12 months late, without fans and against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic. Just weeks before the opening ceremony, there were still doubts about whether the Games would be held, postponed or completely canceled. The preparation was also marked by controversy and scandal with a series of embarrassing resignations among the organizers.

The ceremony itself was snubbed by most of the world’s politicians, and down the street from the Olympic Stadium, protesters could be heard chanting against hosting the Games. All of this created the expectation that Tokyo 2020 would be a major disappointment.

But they say always under-promise and over-deliver, and on a purely sporting level, these Olympic and Paralympic Games delivered a lot more than could have been expected. Cases of Covid-19 inside the Olympic bubble have been kept to a minimum, allowing the action to flourish. It was often captivating and well worth the five-year wait.

From a British perspective, it was another successful summer, scoring 22 gold and 65 overall to finish fourth in the standings behind superpowers USA and China, and hosts Japan. Familiar faces like Jason and Laura Kenny, Tom Daley, Adam Peaty, Max Whitlock and Dame Sarah Storey added to their legacy, while new names like Tom Pidcock, Beth Shriever and Sky Brown started their own Olympic stories.

A mega sporting event like the Olympics is always boosted by the success of its host country and Japan has performed everywhere including the gym where 20-year-old Daiki Hashimoto won a magical gold in the all-around. , one of the Olympics. ‘blue band events. But it is also in whole new sports that Japan flourishes and that the Games themselves are making waves, a symbol of the changing times.

Surfing, skateboarding, and freestyle BMX have all proven to be popular additions and may now be here to stay. The International Olympic Committee has spent the past decade coveting younger audiences after being shocked by data from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 which revealed a sharp increase in the average age of Olympic Games viewers around the world, and he may now have found solutions in his efforts to attract the next generation. Athletes like Briton Sky Brown, 13, were exactly the kind of new age stars the IOC was looking for: young, fearless, with international appeal; perfect artists for the digital world, with talents that could be bundled and released into bite-sized clips.

Tokyo was just the beginning. Breakdance or “breaking” arrives in Paris in 2024, after having been experienced at the Youth Games. E-sports won’t be far either, and the sight of teens playing computer games is more likely to honor Los Angeles 2028 than squash, for example, given the demographics, despite continued calls from the Federation. world of squash.

IOC President Thomas Bach praised Tokyo’s success with specific reference to digital engagement. “These Olympics were younger, more urban, more gender balanced, attracting new audiences and communities, and creating new Olympians,” he said. “Our IOC and Tokyo 2020 social media posts generated more than 4.7 billion engagements in 2021 and the majority of them in the past 14 days.”

The new leadership has a lot of criticism, especially within the Olympic machine itself. When the inclusion of breakdance was proposed to IOC member Sebastian Coe by The independent earlier this year he rolled his eyes. “Well, it’s in there,” he said emphatically. Wait for E-sports to arrive. But there is an unwavering determination to bring this Olympic revolution to fruition, which the IOC considers essential to ensure the future of the Games. Perhaps Tokyo’s greatest legacy is a new order that’s here to stay.

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