5 Olympic Health Risks – Rio 2016 vs. Tokyo 2020

The 2016 Summer Olympic Games are set to debut in Rio de Janeiro on August 6, but the hype surrounding the event is not of the usual variety. Instead of speculating which countries would take home the most gold medals this year or if Michael Phelps will be able to expand his already record-breaking medal collection, athletes and attendees have pressing concerns about the Olympic health risks. And they have good cause to worry, what with Zika virus, unsanitary Olympic venues, and the like.

Thankfully, the 2020 Games will be hosted in the vibrant metropolis of Tokyo. While you may end up passing on the 2016 Games, HealthyTOKYO explores five Olympic health risks that loom over Rio and why you should already save the date for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.


The threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro has been raising concerns in athletes, officials, and tourists alike for months on end. As of now, seven major athletic champions have withdrawn from the Games and more still are deliberating. Not to mention, the incidence of other endemic diseases such as dengue is sixfold higher this year than the last. Tokyo, on the other hand, is much safer. Incidence of diseases such as Zika virus, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue fever are extremely low in Tokyo’s urban environment.


With a peak hour traffic index of 99.5, indicating that a 30 minute trip in free flow traffic normally takes 60 minutes, Rio de Janeiro consistently ranks as one of the five most congested cities in the world. Meanwhile, Tokyo has almost 20% fewer cars on the road, due in no small part to its phenomenal metro system, and considerably less congestion. Rio de Janeiro had plans to construct elaborate additions to the subway system, but these will not be complete in time for the Games. In Tokyo, less traffic means less pollution and less stress!


Guanabara Bay, an Olympic sailing venue, is notorious for being polluted with trash and sewage. Funding and efforts to clean up the waterways have stagnated, and it is likely that what is done at this point won’t make enough of a difference in pollution levels. Tokyo has the resources and the technology to clean its waterways adequately. Carbon dioxide emissions due to congestion are four times higher in Rio de Janeiro. As a much cleaner city, Tokyo’s air and water is safer for your health.


Japan has an international reputation as a technology giant. The Tokyo 2020 Olympic committee has grand plans for the Games, including multi-hued artificial meteor showers, eco-friendly algae-fuelled planes and a hydrogen-powered Olympic village, as well as robots to serve and direct tourists and athletes. Moreover, the fastest MagLev trains in the world will debut in Tokyo in time for the 2020 Games. Move aside, Rio.


With over 200 Michelin Star restaurants in Tokyo compared to 65 in Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo boasts one of the most diverse and fashionable food scenes in the world. It has more internationally recognized restaurants than most European capitals. Moreover, the vegetarian and organic food scenes are flourishing in Tokyo, making it easy to take care of yourself and stay healthy during the Olympic Games.


Rio de Janeiro has a crime index that is over three times higher than that of Tokyo, which has a pristine reputation for safety that it’s held for years worldwide. Whether it’s broad daylight or the middle of the night, Tokyo’s residents don’t hesitate to be out and about, confident in their safety.