National

Tokyo 2020: Workers raise section of giant roof at tradition-inspired Olympic gymnastics venue

by Andrew McKirdy

Staff Writer

The venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic gymnastics competition moved a step closer toward completion Wednesday when construction workers raised the center section of its giant timber roof.

Ariake Gymnastics Centre, in the city’s Koto Ward, has been designed to incorporate aspects of traditional Japanese building methods and will make more use of wood than any other venue at the 2020 Games.

The arena, which will host gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampoline at the Olympics and boccia at the Paralympics, will feature a 120-meter-long, 90-meter-wide arched wooden roof — the largest of its kind in the world — split into five sections each weighing 200 tons.

The first section was raised on Sept. 28 this year and the process of lifting the second, center piece to a height of 30 meters began at 8:20 a.m. on Wednesday. The section, which measures around 70 meters wide and 14.5 meters long and is made of Japanese larch wood from Hokkaido and Nagano prefectures, took around five hours to put in place.

“The venue department at Tokyo 2020 is also doing a lot of work at other venues and a lot of the basic design for temporary overlay works is being completed,” said Takanori Yamaguchi, Tokyo 2020’s venue development project director.

“Next year, overlay work will start. When that happens, we will really start to feel a strong Olympic mood.”

Work on Ariake Gymnastics Centre, which will cost an estimated ¥20.5 billion, began in November 2017 and is expected to be completed in October next year.

The arena’s 12,000-capacity spectator seating and competition area will be built as temporary structures which will be removed after the Olympics and Paralympics have finished. The venue will reopen as an exhibition hall under the control of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government until 2030.

The structure is designed to look like a wooden bowl, with slanting walls that create an exterior concourse inspired by the engawa verandas of traditional Japanese architecture.

“We wanted to make the building as simple as possible,” said Hidemichi Takahashi, architect general manager of Nikken Sekkei Ltd., which is working on the project in collaboration with construction firm Shimizu Corp.

“We want to capitalize on the strength of wood as much as possible. If we were to use steel, the weight of the roof would be double what it is with wood. Construction can be made more efficient by using wood.”

The venue will use around 2,300 cubic meters of wood, all of which will come from Japan. Spectators will sit on wooden benches and Japanese cedar will be applied to the exterior of the building. The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry has verified the structure’s resistance to fire.

“Wood has heat-insulation and sound-proof capabilities,” said Takahashi. “We want visitors to feel the warmth of wood.”

Excavated soil has been used to create a slope approaching the venue, providing barrier-free access to all spectators.