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Goodbye Rio, hello robots: Expect high-tech cool at 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Emiko Jozuka, CNNUpdated 22nd August 2016
Hong Kong (CNN) — A robot directs you to your stadium seat, while artificial meteorites streak across the sky.
Down below, hundreds of performers decked out in traditional Japanese costumes glide through the arena.
You take all this in, as a multilingual translation app on your smartphone describes what's going on.
It sounds like science fiction, but this is the crazy vision that Japan wants to bring to life.
Welcome to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics -- an event that Japan hopes will symbolize the country's high-tech cool, and draw in visitors.

Robot villages and meteorite showers

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dressed as Super Mario, holds a red ball during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Japanese PM Shinzo Abe's show-stopping appearance at today's closing ceremony in Rio, dressed as iconic game character Super Mario, already sets the tone for what lies in store.
Japan is known internationally for its technological innovations, so Tokyo 2020 organizers are aiming to launch ambitious tech projects that will boost the economy and wow crowds.
CNN's Will Ripley give us a peek into Japan's robot revolution.
Tourists staying next to the Olympic Village in Tokyo's Odaiba neighborhood can choose, for example, to hang out with robot helpers of all sizes and sorts that offer up tips on the best transport, food and entertainment options in Tokyo.
And that won't be the only place they'll encounter their robotic counterparts.
With the government aiming to triple their spending on robotics, visitors are sure to see them in the place of human concierges at hotels and airports, where they'll be on hand to meet and greet you.
You may have to pay Robot Restaurant a few visits before being able to take everything in. It's a sci-fi cabaret club where big robots meet ninjas meet dancers in sparkly bikinis. Flooded with neon lights, mirrors and golden seashell-shaped armchairs, the restaurant in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku cost JPY10 billion (or $10 million) to construct.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images
Japanese company Robot Taxi Inc. is also working on driverless vehicles that visitors will be to ride from stadium to stadium, while Panasonic is creating translation gadgets that can be worn around visitors' necks.
And during sporting events, visitors might catch human referees using 3D laser technology to analyze a gymnast's complex motions, allowing them to give out more accurate scores.
To top it all, Tokyo 2020 might even showcase a shower of man-made meteorites in the place of fireworks. ALE -- the Japanese space startup that aims to bring this show on the road -- want to trial their idea as early as 2018.

Kengo Kuma's stadium

Today's stadiums are architectural feats of design that can elevate the senses, capture the spirit of a community, and become an icon of the city long after a sports event ends. Celebrity Iraqi-born British architect, Zaha Hadid's design for the 2020 Olympic stadium in Tokyo won an international competition, but has received criticism. Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki described it as, "A turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away." The 83-year-old warned: "Tokyo will surely be burdened with a gigantic white elephant." Not all new stadiums receive such objections.
Courtesy Zaha Hadid Architects
The controversy that erupted over the late British-Palestinian architect Zaha Hadid's now ditched futuristic design may have initially dampened everyone's excitement.
But no Olympic games are complete without a signature national stadium.
Leading Japanese architect Kengo Kuma's new design reimagines traditional styles of Japanese buildings for the 21st century.
His oval, wooden-latticed structure, that will be the centerpiece of the 2020 games, seems set on allowing visitors to experience a space that mixes some futuristic undertones with Japan's love of wooden structures.

Tokyo's charm

Chef Shinobu Namae of two-Michelin starred restaurant L'Effervescence takes us on a journey to discover "omotenashi" -- the art of Japanese hospitality.
In 2015, Tokyo topped The Safe Cities Index in terms of digital and health security, infrastructure and personal safety, so visitors don't have much to worry about in the way of crime and violence that has dogged Rio.
The city boasts a mosaic of cool neighborhoods, each packed full of cafés, clubs, restaurants, art spaces and shopping malls. And despite its 13 million-strong population and densely packed buildings, Tokyo was also rated as the "most livable city" of 2015 in global affairs magazine Monocle's annual "Quality of Life" survey.
"Everybody can experience hypermodern living and respect for historic values in Tokyo," Hikariko Ono, a spokeswoman from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee, told CNN. "We're proud of the public safety records, infrastructure, and hospitality."
Follow a few of Tokyo's most popular Instagrammers on #MyTokyo. Thursday in News Stream at 21:00 JST.
In Japan, omotenashi is a word that reflects a Japanese style of hospitality and service as visiting guests are placed on a pedestal and treated with utmost respect.
Ono believed that Olympics volunteers as well as Tokyoites in the service sectors would be welcoming visitors with this spirit in 2020.
Yet to make sure that everything runs ultra-smoothly, Tokyo will still need to sort out some congestion issues and make sure that there are enough hotels to cope with the influx of Olympic athletes and visitors that descend on the city in 2020.

Reinventing the capital

2020 won't be the first time that Tokyo holds a summer Olympics. Back in 1964, Japan became the first Asian country to host the games.
"1964 was the crowning achievement for post-war Japan," Sandra Collins, a specialist in Japanese Olympics history, told CNN.
"The Japanese wanted to show the world that were no longer a war-mongering nation...that they had arrived on the international world stage as a team player."
Skateboarding and surfing are among the five new additions to Tokyo's 2020 Olympic games.
In 2020, the Tokyo Olympic committee, said Collins, aims to promote a similar message of hope, while also emphasizing what Japan is known for among the international community: technology and safety.
"I think the kind of hope that Japan is trying to perpetuate both domestically and internationally is that it still had the wherewithal, despite being an aging population with stagnant growth," said Collins.
"Japan wants to show that they can be resourceful in the way that most modern cities and nations will have to be in this kind of turbulent global society."
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