Tours offer nostalgic look at main ’64 Olympics venue

Kyodo

Tours of the facilities at National Olympic Stadium, the main venue for the 1964 Summer Games, are finding new popularity now that the Olympics will be coming back to Tokyo in 2020.

One of the backstage tours last week drew the full 20 people allowed, including families, a group of young women and some people old enough to remember the 1964 Olympics.

The visitors walked through the facilities for an hour and a half despite the 31.5-degree heat baking Shinjuku Ward.

The redesign of the stadium is scheduled to get under way next July, so some people wanted to see it to remember its heyday, when it basked in Olympic glory under the eyes of the entire world.

The first facility the group was guided to was the Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum. Displayed there are medals, the red blazers the Japanese team wore during the opening ceremonies and other Olympic memorabilia.

The tour moved on to the 2.1-meter-high, 2.6-ton cauldron that held the Olympic flame throughout the games, prompting the tourists to scramble to take photographs of the vaselike receptacle. Some were surprised at how big it is when viewed up close.

To conclude the tour, the group entered the VIP room used by the Imperial family and Japanese and foreign dignitaries, occupied by a stately sofa.

In the locker room, visitors get to hear the buzzer that was used to announce the start of events, offering the same experience that the athletes went through before they entered the arena.

“At that time (the 1964 Olympics), the entrance fee was very high, so I couldn’t see the arena,” recalled Yaoki Shuto, 74, from Nerima Ward, Tokyo. “Finally, I can see the uniforms and the Olympic cauldron for myself.”

The 1964 Olympics represented a watershed moment for Japan, marking its rise from the ashes of World War II to become a major economic power.

The National Stadium facilities have been open to the public since 2010, offering five to seven tours per month and up to three a day, at a maximum of 20 people each.

Tickets cost ¥1,000 for adults and ¥500 for students. Children not yet in school get in for free.

Reservations are accepted via the website of the Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum.

The new national stadium will have a retractable roof and seat 80,000 people. It is expected to be ready in March 2019.