THE OPENING CEREMONY
On Friday 23rd July, the eyes of the world will turn to the capital of Japan. The Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony begins at 8pm local time – which means noon over here in the UK. The BBC and Eurosport will be screening everything, from the lighting of the Olympic flame to the procession of athletes that always offers an early look at some soon-to-be superstars.
The sporting action will mainly take place in and around the Tokyo Olympic Stadium, which originally held the Games back in 1964 but has been largely rebuilt for this year’s event. There have been scandals and controversies about tearing down the historic arena, but the new end result is undeniably impressive.
THE COVID RULES
Tokyo is currently in its fourth state of emergency since the pandemic began, which is no surprise as cases have been steadily rising since the most recent easing of lockdown rules. As a result, for the first time in Olympic history, spectators are largely barred from watching live. Even bars and restaurants are likely to have to close by 8pm local time each evening.
The athletes themselves will have to follow a series of new ‘playbook’ rules to keep the Games ‘Covid secure’ including daily testing and quarantine for international participants. Officials have been quiet on the vaccination front but it looks like athletes don’t need to have had a jab to compete, although face masks, hand washing and social distancing where possible will be expected.
THE NEW SPORTS
Several new sports have been added to this year’s Games. For the first time ever, there’s surfing, which is set to take place on Shidshita beach about 40 miles outside Tokyo. Sport climbing (a division of rock climbing) is another newbie and will be held on various types of artificial walls. Two types of skateboarding – park and street – have also been added, alongside karate. Finally, softball and baseball are back on the agenda after being removed back in 2008, and there will be women’s competitions in both sports for the first time.
Team GB is sending its largest ever squad to Tokyo: 376 athletes are due to compete across 26 sports. Also, for the very first time at a summer Olympic Games, Team GB will have more female athletes (201) than males – thanks to a combination of some impressive qualification performances and an increased number of events for women at the Games.
You already know Adam Peaty, Laura Kenny and Dina Asher-Smith, but here are a five more potential Team GB superstars to look out for…
TAEKWONDO: Lutalo Muhammad
East Londoner Lutalo joined the GB Academy a decade ago and has gone on to medal in numerous competitions, including London 2012 when he won a bronze in the -80kg category. He also took silver in Rio four years later. After using lockdown as an opportunity to train harder than ever, we’re expecting big things.
SKATEBOARDING: Sky Brown
Sky Brown is Team GB’s youngest ever summer Olympian – she’s only just about to turn 13. Despite her young age, the rising star has a massive following on YouTube and Instagram, where her skateboarding skills have amassed millions of views. She’s already overcome injuries, including a life-threatening skull fracture, and is determined to show the world what she’s made of.
DIVING: Jack Laugher
Tom Daley isn’t the only British lad who can dive. Boasting four World Championship medals and three European golds, Jack Laugher’s career highlight came in Rio, when he made Team GB history where he and his partner Chris Mears became GB’s first ever diving Olympic champions. While Mears has since retired, Laugher hopes to bring it home again with new partner Dan Goodfellow.
BOXING: Galal Yafai
After getting to the round of 16 in Rio, Galal Yafai knows what’s needed to step up to medal contention. The flyweight has subsequently won Commonwealth gold in 2018 and earned a bronze at the European Championships two years ago. He comes from a boxing family – older brothers Kal and Gamal are both fighters – so he won’t have been short of advice as he headed off to Tokyo.
SPORT CLIMBING: Shauna Coxsey
Shauna Coxsey is one of our most successful competitive climbers, winning every British Bouldering Championship she’s entered and taking home back-to-back golds at the 2016 and 2017 IFSC Climbing World Cups. Making history as Team GB’s first ever sport climber, she’s a powerful athlete to watch.
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