Tokyo 2020: 10 Lessons to Take from the Rio Olympics

Four years is likely to go very quickly for the organisers of the next Olympic Games, but if they can get the following flashpoints sussed, then the flamboyance and success of the city and event should speak for themselves

1. Make sure the superstars are comfortable

Once all the planning, constructing, investing and honing has been completed, the first test in terms of feedback will come from the athletes themselves as they enter the bizarre parallel world of sporting prowess known as the Olympic Village. As Delhi from the last Commonwealth Games, and Rio themselves, will tell you; introducing them to anything but five-star comfort is likely to result in a back-page news story comprising a picture of a toilet. A no-news-is-good-news barometer should be strived for by Tokyo when they face that same heart in mouth moment in four years time.

2. Nobody enjoys traffic jams

In the hierarchy of importance, just below the athletes come the spectators who will descend on the city from around the globe. Inevitably, Tokyo’s public transport and highways will come under more scrutiny than ever before in the odd expectation that the area should be prepared for an outrageous saturation of people. Such are the burdens of hosting an Olympics though, and while it will be impossible to appease some of Tokyo’s - for a short while, trapped - residents; for just this month, it is the tourists that will have to be put first.

3.  Strive for sustainability gold

When it comes to building a sustainable Olympics, silver simply won’t do. As London and Rio have found, the pressures on making the event look like value for money is a fruitless task, but can be alleviated by adopting the right processes in the build up to the games, and in partnering with the right - ethically sound - companies from a sponsorship perspective. “Each one [Olympics] will get better because at the end of the day, in terms of its impact on sustainability and supply chains, the general consensus now is that we’re destroying the planet and we need to do something to reverse that trend,” said Crimson & Co’s General Manager of Latin America, Richard Gurney.

4. Safety first

Perhaps this goes without saying, and this certainly wasn’t a trend overlooked by Rio this summer, but security is paramount. Inevitably, an event of such magnitude is dressed up as a prospective target and danger area for its duration, and making spectators, athletes, the media and indeed Tokyo’s inhabitants feel safe throughout is something that needs to be enforced both audibly and visibly. Ultimately, on this front, the success can only be assessed once the Games have been completed unscathed, but saying and implementing the right things prior to the Opening Ceremony is half the battle.

5. Bums on seats

Arguably Rio’s biggest shortfall was depicted - daily - by snapshots of stadia often devoid of people. Beijing posed beautifully for every picture and London truly bought into the Olympic spirit from day one, but Tokyo will have to avoid the negative connotations attached with Rio’s empty seats in order to push through the message of united success and internal approval.

6. There’s a price to pay

One way to ensure consistently full stadiums across all sports over the course of the two weeks is to make them affordable. Obviously this is all relative, and while Rio might not have priced their tickets any more harshly than its predecessors, it still wasn’t proportionate to the disposable income available to much of the city’s population. Tokyo might not have to endure the same challenge to such an extent, but pricing their events sensibly will certainly have an impact on the perceived popularity of the event from a spectator point of view.

7. Communication is key

One inevitable challenge stems from the beauty of internationalism that engulfs an Olympic Games. With so many languages, cultures, outlooks and interests descending on one city in such a short space of time, communication from the Games’ authorities becomes an almost thankless mission at the time, but a lauded achievement afterwards if carried out successfully. Both London’s and Rio’s volunteers and organisers received great acclaim in the way they handled the droves of people around each stadium, and Tokyo will need to do the same to ensure positive customer feedback upon each visitor’s return home.

8. Green swimming pools don’t go unnoticed

Perhaps another one for the ‘this goes without saying’ column but ensuring that the actual sporting facilities are up to scratch is a given that often catches Olympic hosts unaware each Games. Awkward mistakes with national flags or anthems are an embarrassing - and sometimes dangerous - occurrence, while a green swimming pool simply won’t go unnoticed by unnerved divers.

9. Don’t make the media your enemy

Any negatives being reported back to on-looking nations will be done so by, you guessed it... reporters. Putting the outside perception of your Games in the hands of a select few isn’t ideal but it is the way of things, and the media giveth and taketh away depending on the success or failure of each of the aforementioned touch points. For Rio, they went one step further in actually rubbing the press room up the wrong way, with many journalists and broadcasters left without sufficient food options for large portions of their time there. In short, keep them fed and happy, and the odd green swimming pool might be portrayed as humorous rather than a logistical disaster.

10. Create a legacy

Not to sound too cliché, but ever since Athens, the idea of ‘legacy’ and the expectation on Olympic host cities to build a Games armed with long-term positive ramifications has become a deal breaker in not only being seen as a successful event, but in even being awarded the opportunity to begin with. London’s reputation is still intrinsically linked to this idea of legacy four years on, as the Village continues to be moulded into a new-look capital hub for housing, leisure and industry. Between now and Tokyo, the same judgements will be cast over Rio’s post-Games initiatives, and the concept will have only intensified by the time the closing ceremony pulls the curtains on 2020’s festival of sport.