Ten interesting facts about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

THE ROBOTS

Tokyo 2020, in collaboration with the Japanese car manufacturer Toyota, will rank as nearest there's ever been to a robotic Olympics. Humanoid robots will be deployed to assist and interact with spectators with small car-like robots fetching sporting equipment such as hammers and javelin, flung during the athletic field events at the new Olympic stadium, speeding up the events by reducing the time taken to retrieve the items.

THE MEDALS

Japan is a world leader in the recycling of consumer appliances and electronics, largely as a way to reduce the nation's dependence on mineral imports. The Games organisers have found another way to deal with cast-off small electronic devices, such as mobile phones, with the Tokyo 2020 gold, silver and bronze medals made from waste materials that would otherwise likely have ended up in landfill.

THE TORCH

The Olympic torch and its flame will for the first time powered at certain stages of the relay and the opening ceremony cauldron lighting on July 24 by hydrogen, as means of offsetting carbon emissions. The Japanese leg of the Tokyo 2020 torch relay begins on March 26 at Fukushima, site of the nuclear plant accident in 2011, with about 30 per cent of the torch's material made from recycled aluminium drawn from the earthquake that triggered the disaster.

THE MASCOTS

Not just typically cute and cuddly characters, there are also robot versions of Miraitowa and Someity, the mascots for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. The anime-inspired Miraitowa and Someity represent both Japanese culture and the Games themselves with Miraitowa's name combining the Japanese words for future and eternity. "Someity" is derived from the name of a type of cherry blossom and also refers to the English language phrase "so mighty".

THE ATHLETES' VILLAGE

There was worldwide surprise when it was revealed that the beds at the Tokyo 2020 athletes village by Tokyo Bay will be made of cardboard. That's superstrong cardboard, mind you, but cardboard nonetheless, designed to be recyclable after the athletes depart. The beds can tolerate up to 200 kilograms in weight, according to Games organisers, and claimed to be stronger than conventional wooden versions.

THE SOUVENIRS

Japan is the world capital of vending machines with nearly 6 million spread ubiquitously across the country. It's therefore not so surprising that conventional outlets will not be the only source of official Tokyo 2020 souvenirs. Vending machines, usually reserved for hot and cold coffee, snacks and even cans and bottles of beer, will also offer Olympic souvenirs such as special medallions for sale.

THE FANS

For a rather reticent race, the Japanese may be the world's best sporting fans, an impression reinforced ecstatically during last year's Rugby World Cup in Japan. Not only do Japanese spectators dress to impress, they're passionate, vocal, impeccably well-behaved and are known to arrange post-match litter clean-ups. Get set, then, for wildly enthusiastic Japanese spectators at the Tokyo 2020 Games.

THE OLYMPIC STADIUM

The new 60,000-seat National Stadium for these Games will be the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies, along with track and field events and the football final. It is characterised by the abundant use of timber in its construction, with the material employed to soften the building's steel structure and to draw a link to nature. Kengo Kuma, the stadium's "starchitect" designer, sourced the mainly cedar and large timbers for the buildings from all of Japan's 47 prefectures.

THE VENUES

If ever there was proof that not every Olympic venue needs to be brand new, the cost-minded and perhaps nostalgia-loving organisers of Tokyo 2020 have provided it by resurrecting facilities from the 1964 Games held in the Japanese capital. The Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and the Yoyogi National Stadium, both key venues and architecturally-admired buildings, have been refurbished and will variously host table tennis, handball, badminton and wheelchair rugby.

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THE SIGNAGE

Tokyo, and for that matter Japan, have made enormous strides since it last hosted the Olympics in 1964 though one weak point remains: the nation's relatively poor command of English. The 1964 Games organisers pioneered the use of pictograms to help overcome language difficulties, though for the 2020 Olympics visitors will notice much better English signage. But syntax can still be a challenge with signs in and around the new Olympic Stadium for its opening late last year endearingly reading "Hello, our stadium".

Anthony Dennis travelled to Japan as a guest of the Japan National Tourism Organisation. See jnto.org.au; tokyo2020.org