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Five new sports you can see at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. What you need to know

Credit: Pixabay.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) which oversees the Olympic Games, the pinnacle of athletic competitions, considers multiple factors when deciding what sports are allowed. In almost every edition, some new sports are added to the competition while others are removed. For this edition of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there are a record 339 medal events taking place with five new sports added to the roster.

Surfing

Surfing is perhaps the most surprising addition to the Olympics given that it obviously requires very specific conditions. This is one of the few Olympic Sports where weather conditions can heavily influence who occupies the podium. Athletes must compete against each other while facing changing conditions in the state of waves, the direction and strength of the wind, and the flow of the tide.

The International Surfing Association has been lobbying the IOC since 1995, however it was only when Thomas Bach was elected IOC president in 2013 and decided the Games needed more youth sports that surfing’s Olympic ambitions started to make headway.

There will be a men’s contest and a women’s contest, both featuring preliminary-round heats where the best of each four-person heat structure advanced to the next round, followed by a head-to-head knockout competition. For this edition, only shortboards will be used, which are about six feet (1.8 m) in length rather than nine feet (2.7 m) for longboards.

The surfing competitions are held at Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya, which is about 45 miles (72 km) southeast of the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.

The competition kicked off on Sunday, 25 July, and so far Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and the US’s Carissa Moore have emerged victorious. All eyes are on Ferreira, who is the 2019 world champion and has an inspiring backstory, having learned to surf while standing on the foam box his father sold fish from.

Most reckon the women’s event is between the USA’s Carissa Moore and the two Australians, Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons.

After its debut in Tokyo, surfing is set to appear at least one more time at the 2024 Olympics in Paris, though the surfing competition will be held 9,800 miles (15,700 km) from France in Tahiti.

Sport climbing

The world’s best climbers will put their grip strength and skill to the test on an artificial vertical wall in Tokyo. Three disciplines will be judged: speed, boulder (or block climbing) and lead (or difficulty).

Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, both climbing a route on a 50-foot (15m) wall. In bouldering, athletes scale a number of fixed routes on a 15-foot (4.5m) wall in a specified time. In lead, athletes climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 50-foot (15m) in height within a specified time.

The gold medal will be awarded to the athlete with the highest cumulative score, which is radically different from the usual sport climbing competitions, which typically keep each of the three disciplines as separate events. Twenty climbers from across the world each for men’s and women’s events will compete for a spot on the podium.

The first rounds of qualifiers for men will take place on August 3 while the qualifiers for women are set to start on August 4. The finals will be on August 5 and 6.

According to the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC), over 25 million people across the world do climbing regularly, a number that has constantly been on the rise as the sport grows more popular. In the United States, up to 1,500 people try climbing for the first time every single day.

Karate

It was high time that karate made its debut at the Olympic Games, and the Tokyo Games mark the perfect occasion seeing how the sport originated in Okinawa, Japan.

Since the 1970s, professional karate organizations across the world had been struggling to have the sport listed. Now, their dream has finally come true.

Karate practitioners, known as karateka, will compete in two styles: kata (forms) and kumite (sparring). There will be a kata men’s and women’s events, and three weight classes each for men’s and women’s kumite events. In total, 80 karateka will compete for a medal.

Kata is a demonstration discipline in which competitors have to exhibit a series of offensive and defensive movements practiced alone but meant to target a virtual opponent. Kumite is the fighting discipline where athletes compete head-to-head. In kumite, competitors are allowed to use three techniques: striking, kicking and punching.

The events will be held at the Nippon Budokan, where the first-ever World Karate Championships were held in 1970. However, the fate of karate at the Olympics is unknown as it has not been included in the 2024 program for Paris.

The Olympic karate competition will begin on Wednesday, August 4 and conclude on Saturday, August 7 with all rounds of women’s 61+kg and men’s 75+kg kumite.

Skateboarding

The Olympic Games just became cooler with the addition of skateboarding as an official discipline.

There are two types of events for skateboarding: park and street. During the park event, the world’s best skaters will show off their skills on a hollowed-out course dotted with a series of curved surfaces that rise steeply. The skater must climb the curves with high momentum and perform mid-air tricks, which are judged on difficulty, originality, and execution.

The street event is perhaps the most familiar, whereby individual competitors have to show off their ‘tricks’ on stairs, handrails, curbs, benches, walls, and slopes. Skaters will be scored on the level of difficulty, height, speed, originality, execution and move composition for ‘tricks’ such as slide (sliding sideways on the deck or the wheels), grind (sliding on the trucks of the skateboard), ollie (rider and board leap into the air without the use of hands), regular stance (side-on position where the rider’s left leg faces the direction their are moving), and ‘goofy stance’ (when the competitor switches feet and skates with their right foot at the front of the board and push with their left foot).

The first-ever skateboarding medal at the Tokyo Olympics was won by Japan’s very own 22-year-old Yuto Horigome after he impressed the judges with a “nollie 270 noseslide.” After taking off, he flipped his board, then slid it down the rail on its nose. Horigome brought home the gold for the street skate competition.

Brazilian Kelvin Hoefler won the silver medal and Jagger Eaton from Arizona, USA, won the bronze. Gold medal favorite, Nyjah Huston of the U.S., only placed seventh.

Momiji Nishiya, another Japanese who is only 13 years old, has clinched the Olympic title in the women’s street skateboarding competition. The silver went to Rayssa Leal – Brazil’s second silver in skateboarding after Kelvin Hoefler finished second in the men’s event – with Funa Nakayama of Japan taking bronze.

In August, skateboarders will compete in the park competition.

Baseball/softball

Of all the fresh new sports at Tokyo 2020, baseball and softball are the only ones that made a debut previously. The two sports have been reinstated in the Olympic Programme after being absent since the 2008 Beijing Games.

One of the reasons why the two sports could make a comeback is because they’re very popular in Japan, the host country. Host cities are now allowed to propose new events to add to their program, giving them the ability to introduce (or reintroduce) sports that are popular in their country, with a particular focus on youth-oriented sports. Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) league is widely considered to be second only to Major League Baseball in talent.

Six countries (Israel, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, the United States, and the Dominican Republic) will participate in the Olympic male only baseball tournament. The women only softball competition will see athletes from the U.S., Japan, Australia, Italy, Mexico, and Canada facing off for the medals.

Baseball and softball look very similar but there are some key differences. One of the most notable differences is that while softball players pitch underhanded and from a level surface with the batter, baseball players pitch overhand from a mound. Softball is a much faster game than baseball, and the field is smaller.

Host cities are now allowed to propose new events to add to their program, giving them the ability to introduce (or reintroduce) sports that are popular in their country, with a particular focus on youth-oriented sports.

Baseball and softball will most likely take a new leave of absence for Paris 2024. However, the good news is that the Paris Games will feature a new, much-anticipated debut after the IOC confirmed that breakdancing will make its Olympic debut in the French capital.

New events for basketball, cycling, and mixed team sports.

Besides the new sports that are debuting or getting reintroduced at Tokyo 2020, several existing sports have expanded their programs to include new events.

These include a 3×3 outdoor version of Olympic basketball, for which two new medal events will be held for both men and women. Freestyle BMX is also making its Olympic debut under the cycling program. However, unlike other biking events, there is no racing involved. During BMX freestyle competitors have to perform the best tricks in order to secure the podium. These events will remain part of the Olympic program beyond Tokyo 2020.

Also, several sports are debuting mixed team events. These include:

  • Swimming: A mixed 4x100m medley relay will feature teams of two men and two women from each country competing in a relay
  • Track & Field: A mixed 4x400m relay will feature teams of two men and two women from each country competing in a relay
  • Archery: A mixed team event will feature teams of one man and one woman competing head-to-head in match-play format
  • Judo: A mixed team event will feature athletes from six different weight classes (three men, three women) competing on each team
  • Shooting: Three mixed team events (air pistol, air rifle, trap) will debut, with one man and one woman comprising each team
  • Table Tennis: A mixed doubles event will feature teams of one man and one woman competing in a single-elimination tournament
  • Triathlon: A mixed team relay will feature teams of four (female-male-female-male in that order) with each athlete completing a shorter version of a triathlon known as a super sprint before tagging their next teammate

The Olympic Games are increasingly unsustainable. Can the world afford them anymore?

Credit: CCNULL.

As the foremost sporting event in the world, the Olympic Games aim to inspire people to better themselves across the board — sustainability included. Surprisingly, the Summer and Winter Olympic Games have escaped scrutiny so far when it comes to thoroughly evaluating their carbon footprint.

About half of the world’s population is expected to tune into the Tokyo Olympics, which are just around the corner. But while all eyes are on the athletes, researchers from Switzerland looked behind the scenes and conducted a systematic evaluation of the sustainability of the Olympic Games — not just for Tokyo but also for all the summer and winter games since 1992 — based on nine indicators.

The model showed that over the course of the last 16 editions of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, the events have become increasingly expensive and less sustainable.

“The Olympic Games put sustainability at the core of their mission, but no-one ever bothered to conduct an independent, comparative study over time to see how different Games measure up against that claim,” Martin Müller, lead author of the new study and a professor in the Department of Geography and Sustainability at the University of Lausanne, told ZME Science.

Müller and colleagues were struck by two findings:

  1. The sustainability of the Games has declined over time, although sustainability has become more important as a principle in the Olympic Games.
  2. The most sustainable Games are not those that shouted the loudest about sustainability: Vancouver 2010 and London 2012 made much of their sustainability agendas, but do not rank among the top 5. By contrast, Salt Lake City 2002 is leading the pack, although sustainability did not play a major role in their Games communication.
Sustainability is decreasing overall and in its ecological and social dimensions. Dots indicate individual values of the Olympic Games; dashed lines indicate linear trends Credit: Nature Sustainability.

Across the Olympic Games editions, the researchers found the average sustainability performance was 48 out of 100 points, which is disappointingly average for an event that prizes excellence.

This year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo are expected to cost between $12 billion and $28 billion. Yes, with a ‘B’ — and that’s not at all atypical. The final bill for Athens in 2004 is estimated at around $11 billion while Rio 2016 struggled to stick to its budget, closing at $20 billion. The most expensive Olympic Games ever were the pharaonic Sochi Winter Games in 2014, whose tab reached a staggering $55 billion.

Each host city is motivated by the previous host’s extravagance to uphold a standard of appearance, which means building new expensive sports arenas and revamping public spaces and infrastructure.

But despite the huge expenses, the researchers had to do a lot of digging in order to properly keep tabs on the carbon footprint of the games.

“The Olympic Games are among the most expensive projects on Earth. You would think that those billions of dollars spent are well documented. Far from it. It took us a long time to find even the most basic data to populate our indicators, such as the share of public funding of each Games,” said Müller.

With such stupendous expenses, it’s no wonder that the Olympic Games have been responsible for a large carbon footprint. But what was, perhaps, most surprising was the discovery that the games have become increasingly unsustainable, rather than the other way around.

The games following Vancouver 2010 scored particularly poorly. Ironically, this year’s edition of the Summer Games in Tokyo may be one of the most sustainable in recent history due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will see far fewer tourists flock to the arenas.

“The pandemic will likely have the curious, but unintended, effect of making Tokyo more sustainable than originally planned. Lower international attendance will lead to a smaller carbon footprint. My hope is that this could prove a model for organising future Games with less cost and fewer visitors,” said Müller.

But for upcoming editions, which hopefully won’t be disrupted by a new pandemic, the researchers have proposed a number of actions in order to improve sustainability. These include a reduction in the number of in-person spectators that might reduce the venue size, setting up and enforcing new sustainability standards, and rotating the Olympics around a set of cities to reuse venues and infrastructure.

The Olympics never were a matter of sports alone, but an important piece of international power dynamics. In the face of ever-increasing climate change, the Olympics present a unique opportunity by providing a positive example of sustainability. But in order for that to happen, the public must also be aware of what goes behind the scenes.

“I think as sports lovers and Olympics watchers we need to become more critical of the claims to sustainability of these events and not accept them at face value,” said Müller.

The findings were reported in the journal Nature Sustainability.

Coronavirus action: Japan closes schools, talks about canceling Olympics

With already 200 cases and three diseases reported, Japan is starting to take serious action to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. The government is considering whether to hold the Olympic games or not, and they’ve already closed schools and canceled football matches.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Olympic Games cost billions of dollars to host. The 2016 Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro, are estimated to have cost over $13 billion, while four years before in London, the price was estimated at $10.4 billion.

The fact that Tokyo is even considering canceling the games and taking the loss on the chin shows how serious they are about keeping Japan coronavirus-free.

The Olympics are scheduled to start on July 24 in Tokyo, but plans could change depending on the spread of the coronavirus. Dick Pound, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said there is a three-month window to decide what will happen the competition.

Pound said the decision whether to hold the games or not will be made at the end of May, claiming the virus should be under control for the Olympics to happen. “At that time, I would say that people will have to ask: ‘Is this under enough control so we can trust going to Tokyo, or not?” he said in an interview with AP.

If the Olympics are in fact called off, it would be the first time this happens because of a disease. In the past, they were canceled in 1916, 1940 and 1944 because of world wars. The games were supposed to be held in Tokyo in 1940 but were canceled because of Japan’s war with China and World War II.

Pound described the uncertainty as an important problem and said the official position is that the decision will depend on consultations with the World Health Organization. “It’s a big decision and you can’t make it until you have reliable data on which to justify it,” he said.

If changes have to be made, Pound said that each option faces obstacles and that moving is unlikely: “Moving the place is difficult because there are few places in the world that could think about preparing the facilities in that short time to put something.”

In what could be a signal for the future of the Olympics, Japan already suspended until March 15 the games of the J1 League, the country’s first soccer championship. Mitsuru Murai, head of the federation, said he wished to align with the precautionary measures taken in China, the epicenter of the outbreak, and in South Korea.

Students in Japan have also been affected by the spread of the coronavirus. The country’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced today that all schools will remain closed for the next few weeks, affecting 12.8 million students of primary and secondary level.

“The next few weeks are an extremely important period,” Abe explained. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of children and take precautions that allow us to avoid the risk of possible infections in large numbers in many children and teachers who meet and spend hours together every day.”

The announcement came hours after several local governments decided similar measures. On the island of Hokkaido, the local government closed 1600 schools in response to the 15 new confirmed cases. In total, the region has 54 cases of coronaviruses and is Japan’s largest focus.

The Abe government has been criticized by the Japanese who believe that the response to the coronavirus is being too lax. While Japan has 200 cases in its territory, it also has another 705 cases on the U.K.-registered cruise ship Diamond Princess that caused four deaths since it docked in Tokyo in early February.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals will be made from old gadgets

Set to begin on July 2020, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games will hand the winning athletes medals made from recycled electronic gadgets, the organizing committee revealed.

The three medals to be given at Tokyo 2020. Credit: Tokyo 2020

 

The newly-unveiled design comes after a two-year campaign called “Everyone’s Medal”, through which the committee collected electronic devices donated from the public. It received about 80,000 tons of gadgets total, including 6.21 million cellphones.

From the donations, the organizers extracted 32 kg of gold, 3,500 kg of silver and 2,200 kg of bronze for the approximately 5,000 medals needed. The materials were used by the designer Junichi Kawanishi, chosen among 400 professional designers and design students.

The chosen design for the medals shows the Tokyo Olympic emblem on the front and the Greek goddess of victory at the back. The guidelines of the International Olympic Committee say the design has to include the Olympic symbol featuring the five rings, as well as the official name of the games.

“My first impression was that they are very shiny,” Takuya Haneda, a Japanese slalom canoeist who won the bronze at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, said at a ceremony in Tokyo to reveal the medals. “They achieve a gradation of light and shadow. The designs are wonderful.”

The gold medals are made from pure silver plated with about six grams of gold, while the silver ones are made from pure silver and the bronze ones from gunmetal. The side of each medal will be inscribed with the name of the event for which it is presented.

The gold and silver ones will be the heaviest ever used at a Summer Games, weighing in at 556 and 550 grams, respectively, with a diameter of 85 millimeters, the organizing committee said.

The medals were designed to “resemble rough stones that have been repeatedly polished and now shine brightly, reflecting the athlete’s journey from beginner to Olympic champion,” according to a statement by the organizing committee.

Alongside the medals, the ribbons from which they will be hung are made from recycled polyester and employ traditional Japanese design motifs while incorporating the checked pattern of the Tokyo 2020 logo.

“We hope that our project to recycle small consumer electronics and our efforts to contribute to an environmentally friendly and sustainable society will become a legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” Tokyo 2020 said.

 

Olympic Rings

By 2085 most cities in the world will be too hot to host Summer Olympic Games

Olympic Rings

Credit: Public Domain // Tiberius Puiu, ZME Science

A paper published in the journal Lancet estimates that by 2085 only eight major cities in the northern hemisphere outside Western Europe will be fit to host Summer Olympic games. By that point, only three cities in North America would be suitable to host the Summer Olympics: Calgary and Vancouver in Canada, and San Francisco in the United States.

The study is part of a larger one that investigates the relationship between outdoor Olympics and climate change. University of California Berkeley professor Kirk Smith and colleagues used data from two climate models that estimate how temperature, humidity, heat radiation, and wind will fare in the future. Combining all these factors gets you the wetbulb globe temperature (WBGT).

After forecasting the WBGT for the end of the century, the researchers applied its value to current safety procedures used in determining the viability of a host city. The researchers concentrated on the northern hemisphere because it’s there that 90 percent of the world’s population lives. They also looked at cities with populations over 600,000 as this is a prerequisite for hosting Summer Olympics.

“Climate change could constrain the Olympics going forward,” said Smith, a professor of global environmental health in the School of Public Health. “And not just because of rising sea levels.”

The study suggests that by 2085 cities like Istanbul, Madrid, Rome, Paris, and Budapest — all currently competing to host 2020 and 2024 Summer Olympic Games — will be unfit to host by today’s standards.

solar olympic games

Credit: Lancet

Depressingly, only eight out of 543 cities outside western Europe would qualify to host the games, including St. Petersburg, Russia; Riga, Latvia; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. There is no viable city anywhere in Latin America or Africa. Western Europe, however, would be home to 25 cities that might be “low-risk” sites in 2085.

If current warming trends continue, it seems like we’d have to put the Summer Olympics on air conditioning. Worth mentioning is that this study follows on the heels of news that July 2016 was the warmest month — ever.

“Climate change is going to force us to change our behavior from the way things have always been done,” said Smith. “This includes sending your kids outside to play soccer or going out for a jog. It is a substantially changing world. If the world’s most elite athletes need to be protected from climate change, what about the rest of us?”

japan meteor shower

Artificial meteor shower might open the Japan 2020 Olympic Games

japan meteor shower

One Japanese startup is planning one hell of a fireworks show for the official opening of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The company, called Star-ALE, wants to launch a satellite in space which just at the right moment will release pellet particles. Once they re-enter the atmosphere, these should ignite and glow by the hundreds like a meteor shower.

For the Sky Canvas project, microsatellite will carry 500 to 1,000 pieces of these pellets in the second part of 2017. At the opening of the games in 2020, a command will be sent to the now orbiting satellites to discharge the particles. These will travel one-third of the way around the planet, and then enter the atmosphere where they will become shooting stars.

To make things even more interesting, the pellets will be made from various chemicals that will burn in different colours. In the lab, Star-ALE demoed how this should work. Researchers shot the particles in a vacuum chamber at supersonic speeds to simulate atmospheric re-entry. The graphic below shows the colours of the shooting stars varied according to their composition.

shooting stars particles

Credit: : Star-ALE

Once the particles burn, the fireworks should be visible over a 100 kilometres radius. That’s wide enough to entertain 30 million people in the greater Tokyo metropolitan area.

This ought to be pretty expensive, though. Each pellet costs $8,000 while one single microsatellite is priced at $100,000.