Tokyo Olympics 2020 races towards sustainability and safety amidst Covid-19 challenges

4 August 2021

The much-awaited sporting event, the Olympic Games, has always been a showcase of an amazing array of talents, stamina, performance and inventions. Over the years, the Olympic Games has grown in terms of participation and scope, and it has also evolved into a venue where businesses can present their latest innovations in the area of sports. Marred by the COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected regions around the world, the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Olympics 2020 from its original July 2020 date to July 23 – August 8, 2021 took into account safety and health considerations.

The Olympics has long been known for attracting millions of spectators and a common occurrence in any sporting event is the massive amounts of plastic products consumed. Realizing the importance of instilling environmental consciousness in an industry as popular and as well followed as the sport industry, the Olympic organizers embarked on a transition to incorporate environment protection aspects into this international sporting event. The first take at making the Olympics more sustainable was in the London Olympics 2012 when it measured its carbon footprint and constructed a stadium that aimed for zero waste to landfill, and where around 60% of waste was reused, recycled or composted. The Rio Olympics 2016 followed with a target of 100% reduction in carbon emissions. Also, the Rio Olympics’ venue, the Macaraña Stadium, had 6,700 seats made from 50% recycled bottles; while compostable materials and recyclable PET bottles were also used during the competitions.  

A step further in sustainability in the sports arena
But what makes the Tokyo Olympics stand out among the previous Olympic Games is its intensified commitment towards sustainability in spite of the challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Tokyo Olympics 2020 is symbolic as it shows off the strength and determination of athletes from around the world under the threat of the coronavirus. It also reflects the resilience of the plastics industry as it continues to support the sport industry with its latest technologies and materials. The Tokyo Olympic Games include 339 events across 33 sports, with competitions scheduled in 41 different venues, including the Japan National Stadium, Tokyo Stadium and the Yokohama Stadium. More than 10,000 athletes are expected to compete in the various sports competitions.

A first in the Olympic history, the podiums where the medal awarding ceremonies will be held, are made of recycled plastic to convey a message that this international event is racing towards becoming a sustainable society. Around 24.5 tons of used plastics and plastic marine debris were collected and recycled through an initiative of Worldwide Olympic partner Procter & Gamble (P&G) and the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee to produce the recyclable podiums. TOKOLO Asao, who also designed the Tokyo 2020 emblems, came up with the podium idea that signifies the “Unity in Diversity” message embedded in the emblem. Professor Tanaka Hiroya, an expert in digital fabrication from the Keio University in Tokyo, helped construct the podiums through highly advanced 3D printing technology.

The 5,000 medals to be awarded to the winners are made of metal from recycled electronic devices from public donations.

At the Olympic Village, the sustainability goal has also been extended in the building and structures within the village. The athletes sleep on beds with frames made of recycled cardboard and mattresses from polyethylene materials that will be recycled into plastic products after the Olympic Games. The athletes are also transported by autonomous electric vehicles (AEVs) from Toyota, also a worldwide partner. Around 90% of the Toyota vehicles to be used at the duration of the Olympic Games are electrified in a bid to achieve the lowest emissions target ever for vehicles used at the Olympics. A host of other steps towards greater sustainability are being implemented in line with the “Plastic Game Plan for Sport”, which serves as a practical guide for the Olympic Movement developed by the International Olympic Committee in cooperation with the United Nation Environment Programme (UNEP). The game plan provides sports and events organizers, athletes and spectators with step-by-step guide on how to reduce plastic waste from their operations during and even after the Olympic Games. The game plan covers such aspects as the elimination of single-use plastic packaging, reusing plastic items and proper recycling.  

Safety protocols during the Olympic Games
Safety concerns were raised prior to the holding of the Tokyo Olympics 2020 that the “Plastic Game Plan for Sport” also covered measures such as virus tests for the participating country teams before flying to Japan and on the duration of their stay in Japan. Aside from virus testing, participants are also required to wear face masks at all times, except when drinking, training, sleeping or competing. The Olympic Village was built with facilities such as a “fever” clinic, fitness centers, lounges, and dining area that meet the health protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.  These facilities are fitted with plastic partitions for health and safety.

Some of the delegations are also bringing in their own medical supplies. For example, the Hong Kong, China delegation is supported by the Mainetti Group with its MainettiCare high-quality PPE range becoming the official face mask supplier of the delegation. The MainettiCare is a range of 100% made in Hong Kong high-performance HK96 nanofiber filter 3D face masks (HK96™) and disposable masks that offer better breathability, provide protection even after 96 hours of continuous use, and feature adjustable earloops for a tight fit even during workouts.

A parade of sportsmanship and creativity

Plastic plays center stage in the sports industry and recent innovations by leading companies are expected to add attractions during the staging of the Olympic Games. From footwear to uniforms to sports equipment, plastic provides the necessary features for a winning performance in the sports arena. The parade of all the teams is a much-anticipated event and this will unravel the interesting advances in sportswear. For the torch relay, the collaboration between the Japanese Olympic Association and Coca-Cola led to the creation of the jerseys from used plastic bottles that will be worn by torchbearers during the relay.

At the opening ceremony, the Japanese athletes are set to wear uniforms from environmentally-friendly fibers and designed by Aoki. Sportswear brand, Asics, also created for the Japanese team a set of jerseys made out of recycled athletic wear donated by the general public. Chinese sportswear brand Anta presented the Team China’s podium uniform for the Tokyo Olympics. Known as the “Champion Dragon Clothes”, the uniform is designed by Tim Yip, also known as Ye Jintian, the famous art director, visual artist and Oscar winner for best art design. New materials such as special fibers and advanced technologies like 3D printing are utilized to design the uniforms and footwear by the team.

More upcoming trends in the sports & leisure industry are expected to be among the highlights of CHINAPLAS 2022, Asia’s No.1 plastics and rubber trade fair, from April 25-28, 2022 at the National Exhibition and Convention Center (NECC), Hongqiao, Shanghai, PR China. For more information, please visit

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About CHINAPLAS 2022
CHINAPLAS 2022 is organized by Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd., Beijing Yazhan Exhibition Services Ltd., Adsale Exhibition Services (Shanghai) Ltd., Adsale Exhibition Services Ltd. (Shenzhen) Ltd. and co-organized by China National Light Industry Council - China Plastics Processing Industry Association, China Plastics Machinery Industry Association, Messe Düsseldorf China Ltd. andthe Plastic Trade Association of Shanghai.The event is also supported by various plastics and rubber associations in China and abroad.

First introduced in 1983, CHINAPLAS has been approved by UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) since 2006. CHINAPLAS is exclusively sponsored by the Europe's Association for Plastics and Rubber Machinery Manufacturers (EUROMAP) in China for the 32nd time. CHINAPLAS is currently Asia's leading plastics and rubber trade fair.