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IOC hopes to remain relevant with Tokyo's 'urban festival'

TOKYO (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes that Tokyo 2020’s “urban festival”, which will offer fans the chance to try out Olympic sports, will help the governing body remain relevant and increase long-term youth engagement with the Games.

FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing the yukata, or casual summer kimono, walks past Olympic rings displayed at Nihonbashi district in Tokyo, Japan August 5, 2019. Picture taken August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo

In July, Games organizers announced plans to develop a Waterfront City in Tokyo Bay, involving demonstration events and fan participation in sports, as well as concerts and other performances during next year’s sporting showpiece.

The plans, which mirror a similar idea tested at last year’s Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, are part of the IOC’s wider aim of increasing its appeal to younger sports fans.

“We have made a point to take sport to youth,” IOC Games Director Christophe Dubi told Reuters by telephone.

“We want to make sure the Olympic program remains relevant.

“We have to bring those sports to youth as we cannot expect that they come naturally to the offer that we have.”

The inclusion of new Olympic sports skateboarding, surfing and sports climbing at Tokyo 2020, and the likely introduction of breakdancing at Paris 2024, is part of an IOC bid to attract a younger, more urban audience.

“(The Olympic program) is growing but it is growing for a good reason - to remain relevant. Relevant to youth and relevant to sports participation overall,” Dubi said.

“The sports program has to reflect what is happening in playgrounds, on fields of play every single weekend.

“That is what we are trying to do with the evolution of the sports program.”


Although not all details have been finalised, Tokyo Bay’s urban festival will give fans a chance to try their hand at sports such as BMX cycling, skateboarding and 3x3 basketball at venues also being used for the Games.

Organizers want to create a party atmosphere for sports fans who might have missed out on tickets for the elite sporting events at nearby venues.

“That is the great thing about the playground, the urban festival; not only will the spectators go and cheer and support, they will also be active participants,” Dubi said.

Dubi said he believed the main attraction of the festival would be the chance for fans to try out the Olympic venues for themselves and to meet the athletes they have seen winning medals just days before.

“Imagine what it will like for a youngster to ride a BMX and then meet some of the icons (of the sport).

“It is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Robert Birsel