What does it take to power the Olympics?

Published on July 30, 2021

The 2020 Olympic Games is well and truly underway and once again this summer, we’re gripped by sporting fever (we’ve only just recovered from the Euros!).

As we cheer on the world-class athletes performing incredible feats while competing for that coveted gold medal, we can’t help but wonder, exactly what does it take to power UP this prestigious sporting event?

So, let’s dive into some fascinating ‘behind the scenes’ facts about the Olympic Games and find out how much Tokyo has spent, what athletes have been eating to fuel their world-class skills and why robots will play a part in the Games.

Tokyo national stadium

How much has Tokyo spent?

First things first; how much has the 2020 Olympic Games cost Tokyo to host? Around £20 billion! That’s a significant overspend considering their initial budget was an estimated £5.6 billion, though part of the additional spend can, inevitably, be blamed on covid.

The opening and closing ceremonies alone are reported to have cost around £121 million, the refurbishment of the National Stadium more than £1.3 billion, and the Games Village £1.5 billion.

To put the overall cost into some perspective, check out how much other cities spent on hosting the games in recent years (figures are approx.).

  • Sydney 2000 – £5 billion
  • Athens 2004 – £10 billion
  • Beijing 2008 – £33 billion (the most expensive Games ever)
  • London 2012 – £11 billion
  • Rio 2016 – £10 billion

While nowhere near the spend of Beijing, the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games has spent a considerable amount, on average more than double, compared to other hosting countries.

Olympic Games medals

Just how sustainable is the 2020 Olympic Games?

Determined to be one of the most carbon neutral Games ever, Tokyo has come up with a number of innovative, and occasionally unusual, decisions to help boost the eco-friendliness of the competition, including:

  • Sourcing 100% renewable energy to power the operations of the Games, including wood biomass power and solar power
  • The medals are made from more than 78 tonnes of recycled electronic devices specially donated by Japanese citizens – the donations equated to 32 kilograms of gold, 3,500 kilograms of silver and 2,200 kilograms of bronze
  • The athlete’s bed frames are made from cardboard and their mattresses from plastic so they can be recycled after use
  • The Japan National Stadium has been built using wood sourced from all of Japan’s 47 prefectures and is designed to maximise the breeze so the stadium doesn’t have to rely so much on air conditioning to keep cool
  • The victory ceremony podiums are made of rubbish; 24.5 tonnes of recycled plastic to be precise

Lighting up the Olympic Stadium

Lighting up the Olympic Games

All the sporting venues of the 2020 Olympic Games are lit by 100% LED light bulbs. Why is this such a big deal? LED lighting uses 50% less energy than traditional bulbs, making them much more eco-friendly, long lasting and cheaper to maintain.

And the LED lights aren’t just used for lighting.

These eco-friendly light bulbs have been built into the very marrow of the National Stadium, in things like the racetrack, the hurdles, landing mats and pole vault uprights, all to create a visually stunning, and often informative, experience for spectators.

For example, the intelligent lighting system can adapt to developments in an event to provide extra information and spectacle, such as lighting up gold, silver and bronze to show where athletes finished in a race and flashing red or green to indicate successful and failed field attempts.

Robots at the Olympics Games

Game changing robots

Tokyo is known across the world for its remarkable technological innovations, so it’s no surprise that the 2020 Olympic Games will feature technology so advanced, it could have come straight out of a science fiction movie.

Like robots.

Yes, really! Robots will be used throughout the Games to help spectators and athletes alike. They’ll carry out tasks such as directing people to their seats, providing handy event information, and transporting food.

Some of the robots can even high five, have conversations, and recognise and respond to faces and facial expressions thanks to clever on-board cameras!

Olympian runner

What it takes to power up an Olympian

The athletes at the Olympic Games are without a doubt the best in the world, embodying outstanding dedication, determination, and skill.

So how do they get to be world-class athletes?

Some of the best athletes in the world share their typical training routines and diet.

Simone Biles – Team USA, gymnastics

  • Training schedule, 5 days a week:
  • Get up around 7.45am and eat a breakfast
  • Head to the gym for training between 9am and 12pm
  • Pop home for some lunch
  • Then back to the gym for more training between 3pm and 6pm
  • After the gym she’ll have therapy or go home and relax before doing the same again tomorrow

What does Simone eat to power up her intense training?

  • Breakfast – typically Kellogg’s Red Berries, egg whites or a protein waffle with fresh fruit
  • Lunch – is usually chicken and fish with vegetables and rice
  • Drinks – protein shakes to help build and maintain muscle
  • Cheat meals – she’ll treat herself to a pepperoni pizza after gymnastic meets


Adam Gemili – Team GB, 200m sprint and 4x100m relay

To prepare for big competitions like the Olympics, Adam trains 6 days a week, mixing up his sessions with:

  • Double training – drills in the morning and the gym in the afternoon
  • A longer, endurance speed session
  • Group circuits or gentler exercises
  • Speed training, involving a long warm-up and five or six 150-metre runs at an 18-second pace with three or four minutes recovery
  • Running 400m to build up his speed and endurance

What does he typically eat to fuel his training?

  • Breakfast – protein porridge with some bananas or a smoothie
  • Lunch –tuna salad
  • Dinner – chicken, steak or fish, with vegetables and potato or white rice

Helen Glover – Team GB, women’s coxless pair

This two-time gold medallist, who is set to be the first British rower to compete in the Olympics after having children, trains seven days a week, two or three times a day.

Her training involves:

  • Training on the water to work on technique, fitness, and drills (these are her favourites)
  • Strengthening her legs and core in the gym
  • Two 18km, 1 hour and 15-minute rowing machine sessions a week
  • Working on speed and practising race starts

What about her diet?

Glover burns so many calories while training that she can eat pretty much anything she likes, especially as she needs to eat around 4,000 calories a day (that’s around twice that of a ‘normal’ woman).

However, she likes to keep it healthy with lots of fruit and vegetables and the occasional sweet treat like chocolate and crisps.

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Fact roundup:

Powering the Olympics infographic