©Shotaro Honda Moore

With the likes of Michael Phelps retiring, the sport of swimming will undoubtedly have to find its next poster child. Some have said the next in line is a fellow American in Katie Ledecky. In two years time we will see if she is able to repeat her success on the biggest and brightest stage. Come the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games, swimmers will have a brand new state of the art facility to chase their dreams.The new Olympic Aquatics Centre is currently under construction in the Tokyo Bay area and will play host to multiple events in 2020. There is a strong likelihood of it being one of the busiest venues at the games.

Events

In two years, some of the biggest names in the world of aquatic sports will showcase their hard work and talent at the new Olympic Aquatics Centre in Tokyo. It will not only host a crowd favourite in swimming, but also to the exciting diving contests and artistic synchronized swimming events. Here is the look into the event lineup for both the Paralympic and Olympic games, that will be held out of this facility.

Walls set up outside of the new Olympic Aquatics Centre, covered in photos of past Olympics. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

The Paralympic Games

The Paralympics will only host one event out of the Olympic Aquatics Centre come Tokyo 2020. That will be the Para Swimming competition. Of course there are multiple events within the swimming event, based on both the style of swimming and the classification of the athlete.

Para Swimming: The swimming events mirror those of the Olympic Games. There is the individual backstroke, breast stroke, butterfly and medley. There’s also the team relay events as well. Some notable differences compared to that of the Olympic games, include starting location and additional assistance from coaches. A choice is given to the athletes to begin the race on the platform or in the water. Coaches are also able to give additional support, most notably with the visually impaired swimmers, by telling them when they will have to make their turns.

In terms of the different classes, they are based on the athletes particular impairment. This includes those with amputations, dwarfism and blindness, as well as mental impairments. Classes 1–10 deal with various physical complications, while classes 11–13 are related to athletes with specifically visual problems. Finally class 14 is for athletes who have some form of mental impairment.

Here is a link to the classifications and categories.

The Olympic Games

©Shotaro Honda Moore

The new Olympic Aquatics Center will host a variety of water based athletics, which includes the very popular swimming events. Diving and Synchronized Swimming will also be held out of this brand new facility. With such a long list of events, the venue will be in constant use throughout the course of the games.

Swimming: It will be interesting and refreshing to see who will be able to garner the spot light in swimming events in 2020. The world of swimming will have a new face emerge, as the previous dominant figure within the sport stepped down in 2016. Of course in Rio there were many swimmers not named Michael Phelps who would win gold medals, but receive less media coverage. With there being a total of 34 events and athletes representing over 150 countries, swimming is one of the largest events at the Summer Olympic Games. It was a feature in the first ever Olympic Games in 1896 and has remained a staple to date.

In Rio 2016, twenty different countries would win medals in swimming events. The United States was by far the most dominant country in swimming, winning a total of 33 medals. That included almost half of the gold medals with 16. The runner up was Australia with a grand total of 10 medals. The 2020 host country of Japan would haul in 7 medals and be fourth on that list.

Diving: the diving competition has also been a long standing aquatic sport in the Olympic games. It was first introduced in 1904 at the third modern day Olympics in St.Louis. It did not resemble the form we see today by any means, and would go through quite a few changes for twenty four years.

There are eight total events, four for men and four for women. These events are the solo 3 meter spring board, the solo 10 meter platform and synchronized versions of them as well. The format of the diving event was pretty much the same from 1928 to 1996, but in the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia, synchronized diving was introduced.

The United States are the leaders in medal counts among participating nations in the sport. It’s not even close with 138 medals being collected by U.S athletes. The next closest is China with 69, but it needs to be noted that China was not able to partake in the Olympic Games until 1984. They are trailing the United States by just 9 gold medals and were the most dominant in Rio 2016, with Chinese athletes winning 7 of the 10 events.

Synchronized Swimming: Synchronized swimming is the youngest of the three aquatic sports that will be held out of this facility. It would not become an official Olympic sport until 1984. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics however, the iconic team event that often comes to peoples minds when talking about synchro was not present. For the first three games there was only the duet and the solo events. The solo and duet would be taken out in 1992 and replaced strictly with the team event. The duet would make its way back in the following 1996 Olympics.

Synchronized swimming has a relatively short list of countries who have claimed medals in the event. With there only ever being two events to medal in at a single Olympics, it makes sense. There are currently only seven nations who have won a medal in synchro. These countries are Russia, USA, Canada, Japan, China, Spain and France. The Russians, Americans and Canadians are the only athletes to ever capture gold. Russia has been in a league of their own since the 2000 games. They have won every event in synchronized swimming at the Olympics since the Millennium Games in Sydney.

It is also important to note that this is one of only two female exclusive events. The other being rhythmic gymnastics.

Location

The new Olympic Aquatics Centre is part of the “Tokyo Bay Area” list of venues for Tokyo 2020. It is located in Tatsuminomorikaihin Koen Shonen Park (辰巳の森海浜公園少年広場). It is in the Koto Ward of Tokyo, more specifically the Tatsumi district. It is a small island consisting of mainly houses and parks. It also has the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre, which will host water polo at 2020. The bay area will have many venues ran out of a relatively small vicinity and will be a great place to be able to quickly hop from venue to venue.

View from Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre, showing the short distance between the two Olympic venues. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

The two closest stations are the Shin-kiba Station and the Tatsumi Subway Station. The Shin-kiba Train Station has three different lines attached to it, two being train lines and one being subway. Its serves as the last stop of the Yurakucho subway line, which the Tatsumi Subway Station is also attached to. Shin-kiba Station is part of JR East, and can be quickly traveled to from Tokyo Station, using the Keiyo Line. It also part of a smaller train company’s route in the Rinkai Line.

Below you can see both stations are south to the venue. They are a five minute walk from the new Olympic Aquatics Centre and easy to find.

Venue

The new Olympic Aquatics Center will be the biggest venue to hold the aquatic sports at the Olympics, with a capacity of 20,000 spectators. The vision of the facility is to be a state of the art venue that will be supported by the four bare pillars that are currently exposed.

Layout of the new Olympic Aquatic Center ©Shotaro Honda Moore

The construction end date is optimistically set for March of 2019, like many other facilities. Due to labor shortages and the many other projects going on, it will possibly come later. Like many of the facilities there are white walls surrounding much of the construction areas, with security on premise. In 2016 there was ongoing debate as to whether the facility was necessary, considering that the Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Centre is a five minute walk away. Government officials voted in favour of its construction, and are planning to put the facility to good use following Tokyo 2020. The original budget was set for an estimated 655 million USD.

The site itself is being built in Tatsuminomorikaihin Koen Shonen Park (辰巳の森海浜公園少年広場). It has various small fields, flower beds and offers a pretty view of the bay by using a walkway across the street. You can see the close proximity to the water in the picture above.

With the obvious massive amount of work still yet to be done on the facility and it being in such a quiet area of Tokyo, it is difficult to imagine what the venue will be like come 2020. With four different events being held out of the new Olympic Aquatics Centre, it will be tremendously busy with fans from all over the world flocking to get a seat.

Shotaro Honda Moore

Written by

A writer and photographer living in Hachioji, Japan. Creating articles about the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 2022 Beijing Olympics and other interests.

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