The Promise of Tokyo 2020

The Olympic stage creates heroes and legends. For the host nation, it’s a time to celebrate the best of itself, often redefining its brand around the world. Tokyo 2020 was supposed to tell a story of Japan’s resilience and renewal after the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Instead, the Games host faced unrelenting crises and no-win decisions.

Japan, an epicentre of exquisite design and art, unveiled a beautiful Games theatre. In what’s called the “Look of the Games”, the venues and field of play have become a canvas for Japanese design and culture, acting as a backdrop for the athletes and identifying Tokyo 2020 in images around the world. Every single element of the Look and design program has been conceptualized and created by an army of passionate artists and storytellers. Torches. Building wraps. Fence fabric. Medals. Podiums. And tens of thousands more visual touchpoints. The graphics are quintessentially Japanese – a balance. Modernity and tradition. Dynamic and still. Simple and layered.

All this has undoubtedly inspired the athletes, reminding them of the magnitude of the event and how much it took for them to get there. At Tokyo 2020, we’ve seen athletes showing pride in themselves and one another whether they meet the world’s expectations or not. They’re defining success on their own terms, and showing the rest of us that it’s always enough to do the best you can under the circumstances.

But instead of cheering, singing and roars, there is quiet. The heart-breaking absence of Japanese staff, volunteers and fans who would’ve played host to the world. I hope their time comes and that the Japanese are able to shine, when they’re ready and willing. I hope somehow these venues and staging are reused and recycled, again and again, through events with healthy humans and a healthy planet at its core. We don’t know how this happens, but we’d love to see it unfold, wrapped in Japanese design, etched in Olympic gold.