The Olympic Games 2020 are due to begin in Tokyo on 24th July, when the cream of the world’s athletes will converge at the new National Stadium for the spectacular opening ceremony. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government set aside more than £2.8 billion to cover the costs of hosting the games, which will continue until 9th August.
The National Stadium has been transformed by a major refurbishment, costing more than £700 million, in readiness for the Summer Games. As the main venue for the Tokyo Summer Olympics of 1964, it has been rebuilt to host the modern event. With seating capacity for 68,000 spectators, it will be the main venue for athletics and football, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
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New swimming venue
The swimming, diving and artistic swimming events will be held at the new 15,000-seater Tokyo Aquatics Centre. The 700,000 sq. ft centre in the Tatsumi-no-Mori Seaside Park is the last Olympic venue to be completed. Its grand opening is scheduled for 22nd March. It has cost an estimated £400 million to build.
Currently, 60% of the seats have been installed. There will be seating areas for disabled spectators, including those in wheelchairs, in line with disability guidelines. There will be 35 swimming events at the Tokyo Olympics – 17 events each for the men and women, plus a new 4 x 100-metre mixed medley relay.
The Summer Games will include two new distance events: the women’s 1,500-metre freestyle and the men’s 800-metre freestyle. The Olympics also features the 10km open-water marathon swimming race for men and women.
Top British swimmers
Preparations are well underway for the British swimming team, with the final squad selection hinging on the British Swimming Championships 2020, due to take place at the London Aquatics Centre from 14th to 19th April. The event will be the key qualification meeting for places in the Team GB squad for the Olympic Games.
At last year’s British championships, Adam Peaty won the 50-metre and 100-metre breaststroke double, so he is a clear contender for the Olympic Games. The 25-year-old, from Uttoxeter, became the first swimmer in history to win both breaststroke events at the same world championship. He is the most successful British swimmer in the breaststroke events.
Other contenders for the Olympic team include Luke Greenbank and Ben Proud. Greenbank, 22, from Crewe, was the 200-metre backstroke gold medallist at the 2014 European Junior Championships. At the World Championships 2019, held in Gwangju, South Korea, he won the bronze medal in the men’s 200-metre backstroke with a personal best time.
Proud, 25, of London, holds two British national records for the 50-metre butterfly and 50-metre freestyle. He was the fastest 18-year-old in the world when he represented Great Britain at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. At the European Championships 2018 in Glasgow, he won a silver medal in the 50-metre butterfly.
The top British women swimmers who will be aiming for an Olympic call-up include Commonwealth champion 2018 Alys Thomas, 29, who won the 200-metre butterfly gold medal at the Gold Coast games. The City of Swansea Aquatics swimmer also won two gold medals in the British championships for the 100-metre and 200-metre butterfly in 2019.
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor, 24, of Bath, won the 200-metre individual medley silver medal at the Olympic Games 2016 in Rio. At the European Championships 2018, held in Glasgow, the National Centre Loughborough swimmer won a bronze medal in the women’s 4 x 100-metre medley relay.
World’s leading swimmers
Team GB will be up against the top swimmers in the world, including America’s distance specialist Katie Ledecky, 22, who has won five Olympic gold and 15 world championship gold medals – the record for a female swimmer. Ally McHugh, 22, who won the 400-metre individual medley at the 2018 National Championships, has also been named in the US team.
In the US men’s team, top swimmer Michael Andrew, 20, made his debut at the FINA World Championships in 2019 and has already qualified to represent his country at the Olympics in the 50-metre freestyle, 100-metre breaststroke, 100-metre backstroke and 200-metre individual medley.
Also on the US roster is 18-year-old Carson Foster, who broke Michael Phelps’ 10-Under National Age Group record in the 100-metre butterfly soon after becoming the youngest swimmer in history to break 30 seconds in the 50-metre butterfly.
Aquatics Centre’s future
After the Olympic Games, the Tokyo Aquatics Centre will host international and domestic swimming competitions in the future. The Olympic Aquatics Stadium which hosted swimming events at the Summer Olympics 2016, in the Barra Olympic Park, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, was dismantled after the Games.
The 15,000-capacity stadium opened on 8th April 2016, at a construction cost of £29 million. Its demolition began after 18th September 2016. It was designed as a temporary structure and hosted the Paralympic Games after the Summer Olympics before being dismantled.
Its parts were used to construct new facilities, as its innovative “nomadic architecture” construction techniques made this possible. It was rebuilt into two smaller swimming centres after the Olympic Games.
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