Reporter: Designing the Tokyo Olympics

A look at the design employed for the Tokyo Olympics, from stadia design to robotic mascots

Words by Sophie Tolhurst
All mages courtesy of Tokyo 2020

It’s the final stretch running up to the 2020 Olympics, hosted in Tokyo this year. The preparations are well underway and design is at the heart of it, with Japan having sourced the best for its Olympic identity, which includes logos, medals, torch, landmark stadiums, mascots, uniforms and all the choreography of the opening and closing ceremonies. These elements are just as important as the athletes’ performance in shaping public perception of the success of the event and reputation of the host country.

Miraitowa is the official mascot of the Tokyo gamesMiraitowa is the official mascot of the Tokyo games (Credit: Toyota Motor Corporation)

The Olympics were last held in Tokyo in 1964 and represented an opening of Japan internationally in the post-war period. The country also made huge investments in infrastructure, and it was also the first games to be broadcast internationally by satellite.

Kengo Kuma’s stadium is a timber designKengo Kuma’s stadium is a timber design

The design for 2020 looks forward as well as back. On the one hand there is Kengo Kuma’s stadium, a timber-heavy design in line with current sustainability principles while taking direct inspiration from a 1,300-year-old Japanese pagoda, reputedly the oldest timber building in the world. On the other hand, the latest in technology will also play a significant part in the 2020 games.

Created by Japanese companies Toyota and Panasonic, world leaders in the field, examples range from mascot robots able to high-five athletes as well as remote-tech robots, and power-assist suits to help workers at the event. As Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, states, this is about ‘showcasing … practical real-life deployment helping people’, suggesting a future legacy for the technology developed in the name of these games.

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