Progress on new National Stadium going as planned

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

When the original plans for the main stadium for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics were scrapped, it left the project with a shortened timetable in which to build before the games.

But so far, things have remained “on schedule,” and the Olympic stadium is on pace to be completed by the end of next year.

In July 2015, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the stadium would be redesigned after public outcry due to the increased building costs for the original stadium plans.

On Wednesday, the Japan Sports Council allowed media to tour the new National Stadium, which will serve as the main venue for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, for the first time since work began 1½ years ago.

There were gigantic cranes around the venue as construction crews continue to work on the stadium framework.

Takeo Takahashi, the general manager of the stadium project, told the media that “roughly four-tenths” of the construction has been completed, but the situation is “as planned.”

Construction commenced in December 2016 (the preparatory work began in October of that year) as a 36-month production process. The project is currently in its 20th month.

Construction crews have worked on installing the roof since February, and that portion is scheduled to be completed during May of 2019.

The stadium will have a partial roof, it will be open in the center, with an overhang of about 60 meters circling the venue. The roof’s frame will be a hybrid structure that blends steel and lumber from cedars and larches from all 47 prefectures of Japan.

Timber is also used for places like the eaves of the stadium.

The west side of the stands was open to the media and over 150 reporters, both domestic and foreign, were present. Many were sweating profusely as media were required to wear helmets and also long sleeves and pants in heat in the mid-30s.

Yet once the stadium opens, visitors may not have to worry too much about Tokyo’s sweltering heat, thanks to one of the features planned for the stadium.

The JSC said the venue would be well-ventilated and the fans in the stands and athletes on the field can expect to feel the breezes that flow into it. The stadium will also equip both mist- and air-current generating apparatuses to cool spectators.

Tadashi Mochizuki, the chief director of the stadium project, said fans might think “it is not as hot as” they thought it would be in the stadium.

According to the JSC, about 2,000 workers are currently involved in the construction on a daily basis. That number could increase to between 3,000 and 3,500 as construction enters its busiest period, which is coming up soon. The JSC also stressed it has taken safety precautions for the workers, stationing nurses and bringing in medical doctors and counselors every week.

The public and media have dubbed the venue as the “new National Stadium.” But Mochizuki said that it would officially be labeled as “the National Stadium” when construction is completed.