National

Metro government says Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic venue construction on schedule

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s construction of new permanent venues for the 2020 Olympics is currently on schedule, officials said Tuesday.

TMG is building seven brand new permanent venues for the July 24 — Aug. 9 games, including the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza badminton and modern pentathlon fencing arena, which was completed last November. The new National Stadium, which is currently scheduled for completion in November 2019, is the responsibility of the Japan Sport Council.

TMG gave reporters a tour of four of the venues under construction on Tuesday: the Sea Forest Waterway, the Olympic Aquatics Centre, Ariake Arena and the Canoe Slalom Course. All four venues are located in the Tokyo Bay area.

The Sea Forest Waterway in Koto Ward will be used for canoeing and rowing events, and was cleared for construction in November 2016 after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike decided to abandon a proposal to relocate the events to Miyagi Prefecture.

On Tuesday, TMG officials said that the 2,000-meter-long Sea Forest Waterway is 20 percent complete, and is scheduled to be ready by March 2019. The seating capacity is set for around 24,000, which will be reduced to 2,000 after the games.

Around 200 construction workers are currently at work on the site, which includes the construction of a dam to keep water levels on the course constant during the competition.

“My understanding is that races will be held in the mornings and afternoons, so you need to be able to maintain the water levels,” said a TMG official at the site. “We need to limit the effect of the tides.”

The Olympic Aquatic Centre is being built in Koto Ward near the existing Tokyo Tatsumi International Swimming Center, and will host swimming, diving and synchronized swimming events at Tokyo 2020. It will also host Paralympic aquatic events.

TMG says it hopes to hold 100 competitions at the venue annually following the Olympics, and has targeted 1 million visitors each year.

TMG Director for Venues Daishu Tone said that construction of the venue is very slightly behind schedule but he is hopeful of getting it back on track. Work on the venue began in April last year and is roughly 25 percent complete. It is expected to be ready by the end of 2019.

Tone said that 240 workers were active on the site on Tuesday, down from a peak workforce of 1,000.

Tone insisted that workers’ overtime levels are strictly checked to ensure they comply with the law. Last year, labor inspectors determined that the suicide of a 23-year-old man working on the National Stadium construction site stemmed from karōshi, or overwork. The man recorded more than 210 hours of overtime in one month, far in excess of the 80-hour karōshi threshold.

“We have supervisors, and in Japan we have contracts with laborers about working times,” Tone told The Japan Times. “We have an entrance gate with electronic security which keeps a record of working times.”

Ariake Arena, which will host volleyball at the Olympics and wheelchair basketball at the Paralympics, is another venue that was not given the green light until December 2016, following a review of costs ordered by Koike.

The venue, also in Koto Ward, is now 10 to 15 percent complete and is scheduled to be finished by the end of December 2019.

“We are confident that it will be ready for the test events,” said Director of Facility Yoshifumi Iizuka.

Ariake Arena has a projected seating capacity of 15,000 and will consist of a main arena and a sub-arena. The sub-arena will be used by the public once the games are over. TMG expects Ariake Arena to attract 1.4 million visitors annually.

The artificial Canoe Slalom Course is located next to Kasai Rinkai Park in Edogawa Ward, and aims to hold seven annual competitions once the Olympics are finished. Organizers hope to attract 100,000 visitors each year. It is currently 21 percent complete and on schedule.