By Ken Hanscom
Welcome to the Road to Tokyo! Today marks 18-months to go until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games officially kicks off with the Opening Ceremony on July 24th. While 18-months may seem like the distant future, many family, friends, and fans like you whom are interested in going to the Summer Games are already starting to plan their trips to Tokyo, Japan.
However, this early it can be very challenging to find the information you need to prepare your visit to Tokyo. Even the most veteran of Olympic fans & travelers can struggle to piece together the information required to plan their trip. Many new and first-time travelers to the Olympics often feel overwhelmed with the lack of information. With so many choices, it can be difficult to know where to start and how to plan your journey to the 2020 Olympics.
This is where the Fan Roadmap to Tokyo 2020 comes in to help you. In this roadmap, I will cover all the basic you need to know to get your planning started. Each area will have a deep dive published over the coming weeks, where you can learn all the critical details the instant, they become available. This roadmap will be constantly updated in the lead up to the Summer Games and during the games, meaning you will always have the latest information at your fingertips. Bookmark it and subscribe to my medium fee to stay up-to-date on the latest.
Let this roadmap be your guide to Tokyo 2020 and show you how to plan for the Summer Games. Let’s get started on the key areas for you to consider.
The most important planning step in your Tokyo 2020 experience is deciding which of the historic events you want to attend and will be able to attend based on time, location and ticket availability. Your event itinerary is the centerpiece of your trip and after it is completed, you can start to build out the specifics of your event tickets, flights, hotels, tourist attractions, and transportation once you are on the ground in Tokyo. To start, head over to the Tokyo 2020 website to lay out the events that you would like to attend.
Tip: While I managed to attend 30 events in 14 days at Rio 2016, it can be very challenging to do more than 2 events per day based on the location of the venues, travel times, and security. As you map out your itinerary plans, make sure using the official Tokyo 2020 venue map.
Olympic Event Tickets
If you attended Rio 2016 and PyeongChang 2018, this may come as a surprise to you: Obtaining the tickets for the events you want to attend at Tokyo 2020 may prove to be the most challenging aspect of your travel planning. There are several reasons for this, but key is a generally robust world economy and a Tokyo metro population of 38M combined with only 7.8M tickets planned for sale, 80% of which go to the host country of Japan. Expect ticket scarcity to be similar to London 2012, where fans struggle to get tickets for any event.
However, with the appropriate planning and persistence, you can get the tickets you want. I will lay this out further in an upcoming article as your options vary greatly by country with ticket sales are expected to start in April 2019. I anticipate that events such as gymnastics, swimming, and tennis may be extremely difficult to obtain tickets for, which means to grab them if you can! A piece of good news is that selling tickets above face value was recently made illegal by the Japanese government, hopefully curtailing a large amount of the ticket resale (scalping) activities and hoarding of tickets by brokers that can occur.
Accommodations: Hotels & Air-BNB
If you dreamed at staying at the Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, or a major hotel chain in the heart of the Olympic action in Tokyo, you may want to reconsider your plans. Most first time Olympic travelers do not realize that the best and closest hotels to all the excitement are booked full up to 10 years in advance of the Olympic Games. These hotels are booked by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), National Organizing Committees (NOCs), Sponsors, and Tour Companies years in advance and often times are either unavailable or offered at marked up prices that may make you faint.
In order to start your search, begin at 365 days in advance of your departure date to find the hotels that you want. Many hotel chains change their policies during Olympic events, eliminating the ability to pay with your hard-earned points and may want to charge you the full amount, non-refundable up front. Be prepared for that and budget accordingly. Given Japan’s excellent public transportation system, staying in nearby areas such as Yokahama is not out of the question and may offer more affordable and flexible options.
If you would prefer to stay in a short-term rental (STR) like Air-BNB, Tokyo introduced legislation last year that requires all STRs to be licensed and inspected, improving traveler safety and certainty. Initially there was reduced inventory available for travelers, but many expect as the Summer Games approach more accommodations become certified there will be a significant supply available for Olympic fans.
When booking your flights, it is important to understand how busy the airport will be in the 3-days before the start of the Olympic Summer Games and the day after the Closing Ceremony where airport lines were up to 5 hours long, depending on carrier. You may want to avoid arriving on the same day as your first event, especially if you have to pick up your tickets from a reseller like CoSport where ticket lines reached up to 8 hours at Rio 2016.
Outside of those key tips, you should generally start looking for flights as many as 337 days before the event. United Airlines is the earliest to offer both schedule and bookings for cash and points starting at 337 days, with most other airlines starting at 331 days. Please see this guide from “The Points Guy” for the specific details on your airline.
Hospitality Houses are one of the biggest draws at the Olympics that are not sporting events. Ranging from the exclusive Team USA house (invite only) to traditional party houses like the Holland Heineken House, there will be something for everyone. Whether you are the family or friend of an athlete, supporter, or fan, each house will have something that will interest you. The hospitality houses will have elements of sport, culture, entertainment, food, and drink that are unique to their country and feature their largest sponsors. For a glimpse of what you may see, you can check out the Hospitality Houses from PyeongChang 2018. Details on hospitality houses will emerge roughly 6 months before the start of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.
Special VIP Events & Experiences
Fan favorite events like Chase Visa VIP lounges were a big hit in London 2012 and Rio 2016 with the 2016 version being hosted at the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel. Having attended many of these in the past, these events are often free (assuming you are a customer of the sponsor or brand), provide a relaxing atmosphere with food and drink, and often provide you the opportunity to interact with Olympic athletes and medals winners. These events are usually announced 90 days and less from the start of the Summer Games, so make sure to look out for them.
Sponsorship & Athlete Announcements
One of the closely followed announcements, many of the top Olympic Sponsors introduce their “teams” or the Olympians and Olympic hopefuls that they will sponsor for the upcoming Olympic cycles. These announcements often include the biggest Olympic stars, athletes with the potential for a major breakthrough at Tokyo 2020, and others that you should keep an eye out for. Look for these sponsorship team announcements to start in July 2019 with some coinciding with the 1-year until Tokyo 2020 milestone.
Staying connected to capture and share your favorite moments with your family and friends back home will be the least of your worries at Tokyo 2020. The Tokyo 2020 team has committed to make these Summer Games the highest tech games ever, and already affordable plans ($70 for unlimited voice, text, and data), ample WIFI services, and planned 5G networks should enable you to stay connected as much as possible.
By following this fan roadmap as part of your planning, you will be one step ahead of everyone who is planning to attend the Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan which runs July 24 — August 9, 2020. Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as I dive deeper into each topic to provide you details, strategies, and tips on how you can plan your trip and get access to the events you want to for Tokyo 2020.
About Ken Hanscom
Ken Hanscom is a veteran-fan of the Olympic Games and the recognized expert in ticketing, corporate sponsorships, traveling to and experiencing the Olympic Games. In his role as COO at TicketManager, during Rio 2016 & PyeongChang 2018, Ken worked directly with the United States Olympic Committee, NBC Universal, Anheuser Busch, & Cartan Tours the authorized ticket reseller for 23 countries across the globe on their ticketing & corporate hospitality programs. While in Rio & PyeongChang, Ken was featured in Primetime on NBC’s Olympic Zone with Natalie Morales and has attended 50 events in the last two Olympic Games while guest blogging for the International Business Times, writing for USA Today, The Post Game, and appearing on ESPN Radio. For more information and interviews with Ken on the Olympics and the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Summer Games, connect via Twitter or directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.