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A Complete Guide to the Tokyo 2021 Summer Olympics

The 2020 Olympics have been postponed until 2021, with new dates already announced. Now, the Games will take place from July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo. “Every Olympics is a chance to reveal the best of the host city and its people,” says Condé Nast Traveler travel specialist Amy Tadehara. She works with InsideJapan Tours, which has put together several itineraries for the Tokyo Olympics. “I am thrilled that the world will see true Japanese omotenashi: a generous spirit of selfless hospitality towards visitors that goes above and beyond expectations.” It’s been four years since the last Summer Games in Rio, so here are the answers to every question you have about the event.

When are the 2021 Olympics?

The Tokyo Olympics were originally scheduled to kick off with Opening Ceremonies on July 24, 2020 and extend across more than two weeks, ending August 9. The IOC just announced the new dates will be almost exactly a year later. The Games will now begin on July 23, 2021, and end on August 8.

Where are the 2021 Olympics?

The Games will be held in more than 40 venues, the majority in and around Tokyo, with some events for soccer, baseball, and softball further afield. In the capital, the venues are in two areas: the Heritage Zone, which makes use of infrastructure from the city’s 1964 Games, and, closer to the water, the newly developed Tokyo Bay Zone.

Where is the Olympic stadium?

The new National Stadium is built on the site of the old stadium in the Heritage Zone, in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, in the Outer Garden of the Meiji Shrine. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma supervised the design, taking inspiration from Edo-period temples and working largely in cedar and larch wood.

How much are tickets for the 2021 Olympics?

Individual event tickets currently range in price from about $40 (the beach volleyball preliminaries) to just over $1,100 (the track and field medal competition), with many priced from $100 to $300. There are also packages, which bundle together accommodations and tickets, and sometimes include transportation and VIP hospitality passes. These start at about $4,800 and top out at over $19,000—that’s per person, double occupancy in hotels. There are also simpler packages that combine a ticket and hospitality pass to a single event; these go from about $1,200 to $1,700 each.

How do I buy tickets?

Tickets went on sale last year and continue to be available. But anyone outside of Japan has to buy tickets from the authorized ticket reseller in their country of residence. For those of us in the United States, that’s CoSport. At this point, most tickets to individual events through CoSport are sold out, except for basketball, boxing, volleyball (including beach volleyball), and track and field events.

Closer to the Games, those outside of Japan will also be able to buy tickets directly from the Tokyo Olympics’ official ticket website. While this was originally scheduled to begin in spring 2020, it has been postponed until further notice given the postponement of the games as a whole.

How does the postponement impact purchased tickets?

If you have already purchased tickets to the Olympics, the IOC says your tickets will be honored in 2021. If you are no longer able to attend, you will be refunded. If for any reason the Games can no longer secure your place (say, if the event you have tickets to is being moved to a smaller venue), your tickets will be refunded. For questions about any of the above, reach out to the authorized ticket seller you purchased from.

Tokyo 1964 Olympics
The 1964 Olympics Opening Ceremony in TokyoGetty

How much does it cost to go to the Olympics?

In brief, a lot.

Tokyo is expected to be about 14,000 hotels rooms short of what’s needed to house the predicted 10 million Olympics-goers. This is driving rates up, not just at traditional hotels, but also at the city’s famed pod hotels, its hostels, and Airbnbs, too. Prices are anywhere from two to four times what they would normally be. A search for rooms over the weekend of the Opening Ceremonies found four-star hotel accommodations from $260 a night, but with just a full-size bed; a queen will set you back $400 a night.

What are the new sports at the 2021 Olympics?

The events debuting at the Tokyo Games are sport climbing, surfing, skateboarding, and karate, with baseball and softball returning for the first time since Beijing in 2008.

What other sports are there?

These debuts join perennial crowd-pleasers like gymnastics, swimming, and track — the three sports that were the most watched in the U.S. during the 2016 Rio Games. And let’s not forget other majors like basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, plus smaller pleasures like badminton, canoeing, and Ping-Pong. A total of 33 sports made the cut for inclusion in the Games this year.

How many countries are competing in the 2021 Olympics?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognizes 205 countries, but the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) issued a ban on Russia’s participation in the Tokyo Games as well as the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, which brings the total down. (Russia is appealing WADA’s decision, but the outcome of that may not come till the late spring, which may be too late.)

Where should I stay in Tokyo for the 2021 Olympics?

Finding a hotel for the Olympics is complicated. While Tokyo teems with great hotels we love—38 of them, in fact—booking is tough for the Olympics. The IOC puts holds on many rooms for official accommodations, and others are reserved as part of those big-money ticket packages or by tour operators. Favorites like 2019 RCA winner Aman Tokyo, 2018 Hot List member Trunk (Hotel), and the 2020 Gold List’s Hoshinoya Tokyo, for example, are all full up for the Games and a week before and after. The Shangri-La Hotel Tokyo, however, still has rooms, and the team there recommends contacting the hotel directly instead of booking online. As the event approaches, however, rooms are being released, going largely to tour operators. The new Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi will open in July, and room reservations are still available online.

Tadehara’s InsideJapan Tours has access to some of the newly available five-star rooms, but she also suggests looking beyond Tokyo. “A lot of visitors forget about Japan’s incredible rail network and so limit their searches to central Tokyo,” she says. “We’ve been using beautiful resorts in the countryside, mountains, and seaside that are easy train rides away from the city. With the shinkansen—bullet train—you can be far away from Tokyo but comfortably glide into the center of the city each morning. Not only does this allow you to stay in a nicer property at a cheaper price, it is a great way to experience different parts of Japan and get away from the crowds.” In Yokohama, for example, a 25-minute train ride from Tokyo, Tadehara mentions the Kahala, which is opening in June and is the first satellite of the original in Oahu, Hawaii. It has availability, and, as it happens, Yokohama will also host stadiums for Olympic baseball, softball, and soccer.

Who is the mascot for the 2021 Olympics?

That would be the adorable, anime-style Miraitowa, a big-eared, wide-eyed, blue-and-white-checked figure whose name combines the Japanese words for “future” and “eternity.”

How do I watch the Olympics if I’m in Tokyo without a ticket?

Currently, 11 different Tokyo 2020 Live Site spots will pop up around the city during the Games. These communal viewing areas will feature jumbo screens so folks without event tickets can get in on the action. The idea is that these will have the sort of exciting, public atmosphere that’ll approximate what it’ll feel like to actually be in the arenas, stadiums, and other sporting venues.

How do I watch the Olympics from home?

NBC’s Olympics broadcasts will continue this year, with coverage on its main network and offshoots, not least NBC Sports. It also just announced it’ll use the Games to show off its April-launching streaming service, Peacock, which will air live coverage of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies before they run in primetime on NBC, as well as three daily shows covering the day’s events.

How do I apply to volunteer for the 2021 Olympics?

Unfortunately, the application window for volunteers for the Tokyo Games closed more than a year ago, in December of 2018. But the Beijing 2022 volunteer application portal for the next Winter Games just opened last month, and it doesn’t close until the end of June 2021.


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