While the sport comes first, there is always a question of legacy when a city hosts an Olympics. The enormous cost of hosting means there needs to be a return on investment down the line. If Tokyo 2020 has anything close to the impact of the 1964 Tokyo Games, locals and tourists will see a city and country transformed.
The hope is that the Games will provide a platform to develop and showcase a range of new technology that will blow our minds and put Japan back at the forefront of futuristic tech developments.
Japan is the only country in the world that can put a fleet of robots to work. Remember the Games volunteers at London 2012? In Japan there will be human volunteers working alongside robots capable of doing instant translation, providing GPS-perfect directions, carrying people’s bags and other useful tasks. Odaiba will be the site of a robot village where spectators and athletes will get all the assistance they need.
Artificial intelligence will also be used in driverless taxis for athletes and spectators during the Games. There’s been a lot of rumours about Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley companies being close to bringing driverless technology to market. But you can guarantee Japanese companies are also leading the charge. If they can navigate Tokyo at rush hour, they are ready for release anywhere!
Japan’s organisers know that the language barrier is a challenge for foreigners. So technology for instant language translation, both written and spoken, is a real focus. Panasonic and the Japanese government are working on software for tourists’ phones and tablets that can do real-time translation in 10 languages.
Then there’s a bunch of more “run-of-the-mill” technology being rolled out: super high-definition 8k broadcasting for the Games, 5G phone reception, a new MagLev train that hit 400mph in testing. You get the picture.
There’s also a big push to use the clean energy technology wherever possible. Many buses, cars and buildings will be powered by Hydrogen fuel cells. And Boeing and a selection of leading airlines are aiming to fly tourists to the Olympics in planes powered by energy-emitting algae instead of carbon heavy jet fuel.
The plans are all part of a bigger strategy to give the sluggish Japanese economy a boost. Certainly the timing of the Games could not be better. Robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence are likely to form the core of the next technological age. Companies are scrambling to get a foothold in these sectors that are likely to enter everyday use within the next decade. And Japan is keen to make sure its global brands take the lead in innovation and sales.
Japan was transformed by the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It built the world’s first high-speed railway, the Shinkansen “bullet” train. It also built a new network of motorways and developed the world’s best colour televisions, putting Japanese brands on the map. This gave Japan the confidence to re-enter the global stage after the Second World War. It laid the foundations for the export boom in the 1970s and 1980s. Tourists in the 1960s and 1970s saw a city and country transformed.
The impact of the 2020 Games could be just as great. If the driverless taxis perform well, Tokyo could be the first city to use driverless cars en masse. Surely taking a driverless taxi would top must-do lists for backpackers and tourists in Tokyo?
And the language translation technology could be an even bigger game-changer for travellers. No more “lost in translation” moments on your Japan tour if your phone can turn English or any other language into perfect Japanese.
The prospects are truly exciting for tourists everywhere. Once the voice recognition and translation tech is proven to work it will be replicated all over the world. Suddenly the greatest cultural barrier between people will be lowered or perhaps eliminated altogether. You think we live in a globalised world now? Let’s see what happens after Tokyo 2020…
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