Tokyo 2020, the Circular Games


The five circles of the circular economy. Following the IOC’s recommendation that sustainability be integral to every aspect of the upcoming Olympic Games, Tokyo 2020 has set itself the goal of becoming the new international reference model for maximising the circulation of resources and minimising waste

With an estimated initial budget of around 18 billion dollars to spend, the Olympic Games hosted in the Land of the Rising Sun will be four times more expensive than Rio 2016 and on a par with London 2012. That said, it aims to capitalise on the sustainability projects launched in both Brazil and the UK. In the South American nation, for instance, our Group made its own contribution to the Games by involving over 200,000 Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza residents in waste recycling initiatives promoted by Enel Distribuição Rio and Enel Distribuição Ceará (then known as Ampla and Coelce respectively), Enel’s Brazilian companies which supply electricity to almost 7 million citizens in the states of Rio and Ceará.

In order to raise the bar in terms of circularity levels, Harvard University published a White Paper with the support of the World Economic Forum, which confirms that Japan has the potential to turn Tokyo 2020 into the most sustainable event in the history of the Olympics.  

The circular economy strategies drawn up for construction, transportation and management span 5 courses of action, just like the overlapping Olympic circles themselves: maximising resource use, value extraction, material recovery, regeneration and long-term cost reduction.

In the construction sector, for example, modular design and the use of durable long-lasting construction materials can reduce waste. Lean design principles that help cut construction costs while promoting reuse can also keep the cost of materials down.

In the services area, one solution to avoid having to build hotels that won’t be necessary after the Games is to incentivise Japanese citizens to offer home-sharing services. From a transportation perspective, upgrading the subway, rail and bus systems and encouraging cycling and walking will help keep traffic congestion from worsening and also lower polluting emission levels. Thanks to this strategy, during Rio 2016 sports facilities were able to keep their use of land in check by eliminating parking spaces. Other savings can be made by opting to use energy from renewable sources, switching to electric vehicles, and the creation of a supply chain based on sustainably sourced food and minimal packaging, by monitoring all activities to pinpoint the most virtuous processes. Ideas for five-circle management: the Circular Games are possible!