Whilst the world’s top athletes vie in heroic contests, Japan’s expertise in innovation and globe-influencing initiatives has been directed into the sustainability arena.   Tokyo 2020 has shaped the global mindset in its efforts to spotlight the benefits of clean energy, recycling and shaping  environmentally friendly projects across society.   The world’s attention should be captured by the showcasing of the merits of 500 hydrogen powered, fuel cell Toyota electric cars deployed as transport of choice of these Olympic Games.  As afficionados know, hydrogen only discharges water during combustion and is a desirable clean energy source.  The Paraolympians have benefited from  autonomous electric vehicles which enable wheelchairs to roll into “ride on” mode. 

COP 26 delegates will also have been inspired by Japan’s Olympic Medal and Podium Projects, which demonstrate brilliant resource management that surely can become a paradigm for societies worldwide. 

5000 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals have been forged from recycled household electronics items, donated by Japanese citizens in the run up to 2020.  The project, which started in 2017 initially struggled to collect the metals they sought from recycled smart phones and pcs.  However, momentum built and “urban mines”, as they have become known,  generated  the metals needed for the production of the medals to be proudly displayed by victorious athletes.  Inspirationally, the   communities involved will continue these valuable efforts to collect metals from consumer waste.

The Olympic village itself has incorporated serious environmental ambitions. It has been created from wood from 63 municipalities across Japan. After Tokyo 2020 is completed, the village will be disassembled and the wood returned to its place of origin.  It will then be reintegrated as a local societal resource. Intriguingly, the beds that provide much needed rest for weary Olympic muscles after each day’s competition have been built from (robust!) carboard and will even be recycled for paper after the Games are over, rather than discarded.   This has to be a model of sustainability for other large scale global events.   Food waste – which is considerable during every Olympic games – has been earmarked for animal feed. On a poignant note, the Olympic torches have been made from recycled aluminium from the temporary shelters for people whose lives were devastated by the 2011 Fukushima earthquake.  

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have also displayed a resolve to highlight and address the issue of shoals of plastic waste as a global challenge.  Reusing consumer plastic waste for the Olympic podiums has been integrated into Tokyo 2020 planning.   Swathes of detergent bottles were collected from 2000 retailers and in schools and transformed into the Olympic podiums in a declared objective to influence the world’s population to recycle resources and raise awareness of the issues of plastic waste.   

The opening ceremony for Tokyo 2020 set out a clear sustainability agenda.  Japan’s Olympic vision and pledge that 99% of the goods procured for the Olympics will be used afterwards or recycled demonstrates that it can lead the world in sustainable innovation and visionary programmes. 


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INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT Tokyo Olympics

Sustainability Focus at Tokyo 2020 – Japan Going for Gold