Rugby World Cup boss Alan Gilpin said Wednesday he was confident Tokyo’s new national stadium would be ready for Rugby World Cup 2019.
Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo 100 days before the start of Rugby World Cup 2015, Gilpin said he understood ongoing media speculation about whether the new stadium would be ready in time.
“We have discussed the issues with Japan Sports Council and Japan Rugby 2019 (the local organizing committee) and we are confident it will be ready and a fantastic stadium for rugby,” he said.
Objections from local architects and a desire to considerably cut the budget for the Tokyo Olympics have seen the original plan for the stadium changed a number of times and led to reports that the showpiece for both RWC 2019 and the 2020 Games would not be ready by September 2019, when rugby’s showpiece tournament is set to kick off.
“Every stadium project has challenges and undergoes changes,” Gilpin said. “We are 100 days away from the start of Rugby World Cup 2015 and (London’s) Olympic Stadium, which is set to host five games, still has work ongoing to make it ready for this year. I am confident all 12 venues (in Japan) will be ready and will be fantastic venues.”
Gilpin went on to say Japan Rugby 2019 has been involved in the process of building the new stadium since 2009 when it was awarded the World Cup, and as such, the requirements of what were needed to host top-class games were well known to them and the Japan Sports Council.
Japan named the 12 venues for RWC 2019 back in March, and Gilpin was asked to comment on the one other stadium that has yet to be built — Kamaishi in Iwate Prefecture, which suffered huge damage as the result of the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
“Kamaishi is on a different scale and complexity than Tokyo but no less important,” he said. “We will be working over the next 12 months to ensure all the technical specifications are in place. And if the welcome and enthusiasm we saw in January are anything to go by then Kamaishi will be a sensational host.
“I am sure it will be a huge part of the story and emotion of 2019, and if Rugby World Cup can be part of the recovery effort up there then that it is a fantastic legacy for the event and the sport.”
Gilpin then reminded local journalists just how big a tournament the Rugby World Cup is.
“We have just sold our 2 millionth ticket out of a total of 2.3 million so we are confident the tournament will be played in 13 iconic and very full stadiums. We are expecting 500,000 international visitors to England and Wales and they are a very important part of the Rugby World Cup story in terms of the benefits the host country enjoys.”
The 42-year-old Englishman said this year’s hosts could expect £1 billion ($1.5 billion) in additional economic activity and well over £2 billion in total economic benefit.
With the tournament just over three months away, preparations for 2019 are well on course, and five countries — France, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and the United States — having recently put themselves in a position to host RWC 2023. It is Gilpin quipped, “a nice quiet time in the world of rugby.”