National

Japan's Olympics and Rugby World Cup organizers pledge cooperation to ensure successful sporting events

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

Organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and 2019 Rugby World Cup on Wednesday signed a collaboration agreement that they hope will smooth preparations for Japan’s hosting of the two sporting mega-events.

“One might think that the Rugby World Cup and Olympic organizing committees would have a close relationship, but that has not been the case,” 2019 RWC organizing committee CEO Akira Shimazu said after signing the agreement with Tokyo 2020 counterpart Toshiro Muto.

“So we would like to change that and this agreement makes it official.”

Shimazu and Muto pledged to exchange knowledge and resources in areas such as security, transport infrastructure, volunteers and anti-doping programs, with less than two and a half years to go until the Rugby World Cup kicks off in Tokyo on Sept. 20, 2019.

“This is not something that we expect to make huge savings from,” said Muto. “It is not so much about money, more about making preparations smoother. And for that, experience is necessary.”

The Rugby World Cup will take place in 12 stadiums around Japan from Sept. 20-Nov. 2, 2019, less than a year before Tokyo hosts the 2020 Games from July 24-Aug. 9.

Three of the World Cup venues — Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo, Nissan Stadium in Yokohama and Sapporo Dome in Hokkaido — will also be used for the Olympics. Ajinomoto Stadium will stage the Olympic rugby sevens competition, while Sapporo and Yokohama will host soccer games.

“We will hold the Rugby World Cup final in Yokohama and Tokyo will host the opening ceremony and opening game — hopefully the stadium where Japan wins its opening game — so they are very important venues,” said Shimazu.

“With regards to security, of course the Olympics and the Rugby World Cup are not the same, but the experience that we gain from security at the World Cup will be beneficial to the Olympic volunteers.”

The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England shattered tournament attendance records, with over 2.47 million tickets sold for the six-week event, in addition to an official “fan zone” attendance of more than a million.

Rugby World Cup organizers estimate that the 2019 tournament will bring a $2.5 billion boost to the Japanese economy, with fans from all over the world arriving to follow their teams.

“At the final in Yokohama in a stadium holding 73,000 people, more than half of the fans are likely to be foreign nationals,” said Shimazu.

“We are holding our event first, and that experience with doping, with security, with volunteers, it’s all something that we can share.”