Olympian statue with face mask

At last! It’s the 2020 Olympics.

Image credit: Dreamstime

Technology has never been more central to how the Games are both played and enjoyed.

It looked like the Tokyo Olympics was always going to be a little different ever since we learnt it would include skateboarding for the first time, but we could never have guessed it would turn out to be this different. Staged as it is under the shadow of Covid-19, it will be the first to go ahead against public opposition that I can recall. The spectators that will be there will be socially distanced and the roar of the crowds won’t be quite the same. Japan’s broadcasting is pulling out all the stops with artificial intelligence joining ultra high-definition and more in technology to make it the best possible experience for all the armchair athletes out there.

The environmental factor is always a key consideration in the awarding of the games these days. It was a selling point for London nearly a decade ago and we assess how good that legacy really was for locals, London and the environment. Tokyo is no exception and Japan’s made much of its plans from sustainable timber to electronics recycling. But how much do bright ideas like medals from recycled gold really help sustainability? It seems the biggest difference will be unplanned: the result of fewer visitors flying in from around the world. Japan has operated one of the world’s strictest entry bans during the pandemic but, while thousands of athletes have been arriving, researchers are stranded abroad, damaging international collaborations, engineering and university research.

Several of the Olympic venues are in Fukushima, site of the Daiichi nuclear disaster a decade ago. Visitors will get more exposure from radiation flying to Japan than they will staying in the region. So is there anything to be worried about? We look at the engineering and science that’s gone into monitoring the radiation situation.

There’s plenty of technology in play at these Games. Crispin Andrews looks at how it’s helping Team GB athletes emerge from their home-made gyms of lockdown to reach peak performance at just the right time – we hope. They’ve been using fitness apps, like many of us have, but thankfully they have technology to take their performance further.

Facial recognition will play an important role at the gates to speed up contactless entry and Japan is using the Games to showcase its leadership in robotics with everything from remote-controlled physical avatars to driverless vehicles and exoskeletons to lift weights back into place.

Tokyo Olympics timeline graphic

Graphic News

Image credit: Graphic News

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