Sunday November 28, 2021

Arenas of gold: Tokyo venues ready to forge Olympic dreams

April 14, 2021

TOKYO: From a state-of-the-art aquatics centre to a historic martial arts arena whose roof resembles Mount Fuji, Japan’s Olympic sites are ready for action after a year’s coronavirus delay.

The 43 venues are located in two main areas: the “Tokyo Bay Zone” in the capital’s busy port district, and the more central “Heritage Zone” incorporating several sites from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

With 100 days until the opening ceremony for the postponed Games, AFP takes a tour of the key venues:

- Olympic Stadium -

Used for the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the athletics and some football matches, the 68,000-seater Olympic Stadium in central Tokyo has been built on the site of the 1964 stadium.

The original design, by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, was jettisoned in July 2015 after public outrage over its $2 billion price tag — which would have made it the world’s most expensive stadium.

A slimmed-down, cheaper version was commissioned and the five-floor facility was unveiled in December 2019, along with a host of special features to beat the heat of the Tokyo summer.

But how many domestic fans — if any — will be allowed into the stadium during the events is expected to be decided by organisers this month.

- Aquatics Centre -

The 56.7 billion yen ($516 million) Aquatics Centre was completed in February 2020 but its grand opening was postponed by the virus.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was finally held in October 2020 at the 15,000-seat venue in the Bay Zone for swimming, diving and artistic swimming events.

The main pool features a movable wall allowing the 50m facility to be converted into two 25m pools, with the depth also adjustable.

Tokyo hopes to make the most of the facility after this summer, aiming to attract one million users a year — 850,000 through swimming competitions and roughly 150,000 casual punters.

- Sea Forest Waterway -

On a lush artificial island, in the shadow of the huge Tokyo Gate Bridge, sits the Sea Forest Waterway — a two-kilometre basin protected from the sea by a dam, where rowers will glide along eight competition lanes.

Built to seat 24,000 during the Games, the arena’s capacity will be reduced to 2,000 afterwards when it will host 30 competitions per year as well as canoeing and rowing classes.

- Ariake Arena -

The brand-new Ariake Arena will host Olympic volleyball and Paralympic basketball, with seating for 15,000.

Solar panels on its curved roof were carefully aligned to avoid reflecting sunlight into nearby apartments.

The solar panels, heat sensors and geothermal pumps will reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The venue is earmarked for concerts and sporting events after 2020.

- Nippon Budokan -

The famous martial arts arena was first built for judo in 1964 and boasts a curved roof to resemble Mount Fuji. It will also host karate in 2020.

It became a renowned concert venue after the 1964 Olympics and famously played host to the Beatles in 1966 when they made their first appearance in Japan.

- Olympic Village -

The Olympic Village, which will house athletes and officials from over 200 countries, was built on reclaimed land on a huge rectangular site looking out over the water.

The 21 residential towers have a total capacity of 18,000 beds during the Olympics and 8,000 for the Paralympics.

They have been empty for months, but after the Games will be converted into luxury apartments to buy or rent — with around 900 units already sold before the postponement.

- Kasai Canoe Slalom Centre -

The first artificial canoe slalom course in Japan has vast concrete basins that slope at a two-degree gradient.

Four pumps will be installed and blocks placed on the course to create a raging current.

The site is intended for a wide range of watersports and leisure activities after the Games.

- Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium-

Japanese authorities have dubbed Tokyo 2020 the “Reconstruction Olympics” and they are determined to show that areas in eastern Fukushima have been revitalised since the crippling 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

The venue will be used for baseball, one of Japan’s most popular sports, and softball.