Mike Rowbottom ©ITG

Today in Tokyo the roads have been thronged with cyclists – the latest manifestation of an Olympic Games that, on Wednesday (July 24), will be exactly one year away.

Teams from Hong Kong, Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg and Russia, along with 11 Japanese International Cycling Union continental teams, have taken to the roads for the latest Tokyo 2020 test event.

Today's route started in Musashinonomori Park and ended at Fuji International Speedway in Shizuoka Prefecture – and covered part of the 234 kilometres course that will be used at Tokyo 2020 when athletes will take in the lower slopes of Mount Fuji.

There are 56 test events involved in the "Ready Steady Tokyo" programme which are due to take place until May 2020.

Some are scheduled domestic and international sporting events that happen to be taking place in Japan during the build-up to Tokyo 2020, while 22 others are dedicated Olympic and Paralympic test events.

Weightlifting, archery and surfing events have already taken place this month.

It could be argued that the year to go date is actually tomorrow, as the Opening Ceremony on July 24 will be preceded two days earlier by preliminary women's football matches and group games in one of the sports that has been added to the programme for 2020, softball.

But Wednesday it is that has been chosen as the significant date to be marked, and it is set within another allotted timescale as the period between July 13 and August 9 is designated as the time to celebrate the one year countdown. 

The Olympics are set to take place from July 24 to August 9 next year, with the Paralympics scheduled for August 25 to September 6.

The year to go will be officially marked with a ceremony at the Tokyo International Forum which will culminate in the revelation of the design for next year's Olympic medals.

No announcement has yet been made, but it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to be in attendance.

At any rate, representatives from the Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the IOC will each deliver a message containing their thoughts about welcoming the one-year-to-go moment.

A ceremonial handing over of Tokyo 2020 invitations to National Olympic Committee representatives by the IOC will also take place, alongside a public event where attendees will be able to try 15 of the 33 Olympic sports.

Athletes and the Olympic mascot Miraitowa are expected to take part at this event, with Tokyo 2020 unveiling a one-off logo to mark the occasion.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic mascot Miraitowa will become a familiar sight ©Getty Images
Tokyo 2020 Olympic mascot Miraitowa will become a familiar sight ©Getty Images

"We will look back at our preparation efforts that started approximately six years ago when Tokyo won the bid," an official statement reads.

"We will deliver a message to all athletes worldwide, welcoming them to the Tokyo 2020 Games. We will have athletes take part and artists delivering a special performance.

"And the moment people have been waiting for – the design of the Tokyo 2020 medals will be revealed."

The opening performance will feature former rhythmic gymnast Honami Tsuboi performing to the sound of tsugaru-jamisen – a guitar-like Japanese instrument – played by the world-renowned Yoshida Brothers.

This will also be a chance to shine for the Panasonic Corporation, one of the worldwide Olympic and Paralympic partners, as the performance will feature a projection mapping display created under its supervision.

After the medal design, selected from the 421 design applications submitted to a competition, has been revealed, the designer will also be introduced and will "share the concept and the emotions that went into the design".

At the end of the ceremony there will be a musical performance by Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.

Tokyo 2020 organisers confidently maintain that the Orchestra "will express everyone's anticipation toward the Tokyo 2020 Games with their powerful performance".

While the design of the medals has yet to be revealed, one thing about them is already known – they will be the first "sustainable" Olympic medals.

The gold, silver and bronze medals will be produced from salvaged metals from discarded mobile phones and other small electronic devices as part of the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project.

The initiative, launched in April 2017, is intended to highlight the need for recycling while engaging the general public by giving them an opportunity to play a role in the preparations.

Around 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals will be produced.

"Our goal is to produce 100 per cent sustainable Games medals," said a spokesman for the Project.

"For those athletes who will be receiving a medal, it will be extra meaningful to receive a medal that's made by each and every one of you."

Anong the members of the selection panel for the medal design competition is three-times Olympic judo champion Tadahiro Nomura, who is also an official ambassador for the Torch Relay.

Japan's three-times Olympic judo champion Tadahiro Nomura is an ambassador for the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay, and was also on the selection panel to choose the best design for next year's medals ©Getty Images
Japan's three-times Olympic judo champion Tadahiro Nomura is an ambassador for the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay, and was also on the selection panel to choose the best design for next year's medals ©Getty Images

Nomura is an ideal figure to promote the Games, given that he has enjoyed unrivalled success in one of the sports Japan holds closest to its heart.

The Tokyo Olympics of 1964 were the first to include judo which, following omission at Mexico City 1968, has been a regular fixture since. It is likely to be one of the most passionately supported sports on next year's programme.

Women's judo has been in the Games since 1992, having featured as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

That first Olympic judo event at the Nippon Budokan saw home golds awarded in three of the four categories as Takehide Nakatani in the 68 kilograms lightweight, Isao Okano in the 80kg middleweight and Isao Inokuma in the over-80kg heavyweight all prevailed.

But Japan had to settle for silver in the open category as Akio Kaminaga was beaten by Anton Geesink of The Netherlands.

Nomura was born into a family of judoka with Olympic connections. His grandfather was a local judo instructor, and his father was the coach of Shinji Hosokawa, who won a gold medal at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Nomura's uncle, Toyokazu Nomura, was also a gold medallist at the 1972 Munich Games in the under-70kg division.

Nomura, who began learning judo at his grandfather's dojo at the age of six, has since proved uniquely able to make the most of the sport's Olympic status.

He won the men's judo 60kg category at the Games of Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, thus becoming the first judoka and the first Asian athlete in any sport to win an Olympic gold medal at three consecutive Games.

Since his retirement, Nomura has been devoted to promoting judo at home and abroad.

"I took part in the Olympic Games three times as an athlete, and the Torch Relay is very special not only for me but for everyone who loves the Games and loves sport," he says on the Tokyo 2020 site.

"I hope we can all get excited about the Torch Relay and end up with a big smile from the satisfaction that we hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. It is also my wish that the experience gained through the Tokyo 2020 Games will become a legacy for future generations, and will be remembered forever as a spectacular Games. So let's build up the momentum together."

Tokyo 2020 organisers have said the Torch Relay will also be promoted at the one year to go ceremony.

It will set off from the J-Village, Japan's national football training centre, on March 26, before visiting Japan's most historic and famous sites. It will also travel to Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami, taking in the Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park. The Atomic Bomb Dome in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park will be another stop.

All 47 prefectures of Japan will be visited, with the Organising Committee claiming that around 98 per cent of Japan's population live within one hour's travel of the proposed route.

The flame will traverse Japan in the space of 121 days, reaching the Olympic Stadium on July 24.

With regard to that new Stadium, which is being built at Shinjuku in Tokyo on the same site as the old National Stadium that hosted the Olympic flame 55 years ago, a pinned tweet on the Tokyo 2020 Twitter site proclaims: "The Olympic Stadium is almost completed! Ninety per cent of the work has been done and it will be finished by November this year."

Elsewhere on the Twitter feed there are notices of other events attesting to the imminence of what many believe is the greatest sporting show on earth.

Athletes from the British gymnastics team have been visiting their 2020 training base at Kio University, testing out the facilities. And they have liked what they have found.

Rio 2016 Olympian Brinn Bevan, who won the British all-around title last year, told Tokyo 2020: "My experience here at Keio University has been absolutely amazing. Leading into the Tokyo Olympic Games we are in direct partnership with this university, so being able to come here a year out from the Olympics and experience the whole facilities – my whole training has been absolutely amazing here."

The site has also recently live-streamed the uniform design for the Games volunteers.

Numerous other events are due to take place as part of the lead-up.

These will include a Tokyo 2020 caravan which will travel through prefectures in the Kanto region to promote the Games.

The caravan, organised by the Nippon Life Insurance Company, will visit Kanagawa, Saitama, Ibaraki, Chiba and Tokyo.

Street decorations will also be displayed from July 23 to August 25 by gold partners Mitsui Fudosan and one year to go products will be sold by Tokyo 2020 featuring the one-off logo.

Products are expected to include t-shirts, pin badges and 3D crystal items, which will be offered in official shops and online.

Two initiatives are in hand that illustrate the twin strands of tradition and innovation woven into the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Last month it was announced that schoolchildren in and around Tokyo are growing 40,000 flowers to be used instead of the traditional partitions in spectator security areas. 

Personal messages will be attached to each flower, which spectators can read as they wait to go into the venue.

How the flower partitions for security screening areas will look at Tokyo 2020 ©Tokyo 2020
How the flower partitions for security screening areas will look at Tokyo 2020 ©Tokyo 2020

"When we talk about 'security' it tends to invoke rather a strict image, quite the opposite of 'hospitality', and so with this initiative we intend to project the hospitality that emanates from the hearts of children," Tsuyoshi Iwashita, executive director of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee's Security Bureau, said.

As far as the strict image is concerned, full details of security innovations have been fascinatingly laid out by Yuu Rirou in an article for Synced Review.

Observing that the Olympics have innovated technology down the years – with the 1960 Rome Olympics pioneering live broadcasting and the 1964 Tokyo Games featuring the debut of the Shinkansen high speed rail – Rirou records the artificial intelligence security operations that will be applied on a large scale for the first time at a Games as an estimated 10 million foreign visitors and many more Japanese citizens converge on the capital.

"In order to improve the security efficiency," Rirou writes, "Tokyo Metropolitan Police are cooperating with Panasonic on a new crowd forecasting system. 

"Cameras installed on police cars will upload human flow data to the cloud for calculation and analysis to predict the dynamics of future crowd movement. The real-time prediction system can also detect suspicious situations such as retrograde motion, suspicious objects placed among crowds, or vehicles traveling in restricted areas. 

"The system will flag unnatural or suspicious activities as possible indications of terrorism and police will be instructed to investigate."

A facial recognition system developed by NEC will be used in conjunction with ID cards for identification and authentication at Tokyo 2020 entrance points, the first such deployment of the technology.

Other bio-metric technologies including face, iris, fingerprint, palm print, and voice detection will also be available for identity authentication.

Robots will replace police patrols at some Olympic locations, using Japanese security company ALSOK's "emotional visualisation system" to monitor crowds via cameras mounted on squads of autonomous roaming machines.

Studies show that people involved in criminal or terrorist activities often display physical signs such as twitches, trembling, flushed complexion or behaviour fluctuations.

"ALSOK's system measures psychological states based on body signals like the jitters, then assigns values accordingly and colour-codes the people in its environment on a display screen – for example tinting in red any individual whose physical appearance suggests a potentially aggressive mental state," Rirou adds.

A test run in May 2016 at a baggage inspection site for the Ise-Shima GY summit successfully identified "impatient and/or irritated people" in the queue.

Brave new world innovations aside, the technology will also be used to detect and warn against heatwaves at event venues. By way of advice – if it is very hot, try not to get irritated about it, or…well, just try and stay nice and calm.