• Kyodo


The new National Stadium was officially completed on Saturday when the centerpiece for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics was handed over to its owner and operator, the Japan Sport Council.

Created by architect Kengo Kuma’s office, construction giant Taisei Corp. and design firm Azusa Sekkei Co., the stadium was completed in 36 months for ¥157 billion ($1.4 billion).

With the handover complete, the stadium will just be called the National Stadium. With five stories above ground level and two below, it’s the latest incarnation of Japanese sports’ spiritual home to be built in the neighborhood. It replaces the National Stadium that was used as the main venue for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which in turn took the place of Meiji Jingu Gaien Stadium. The latter served as a point of departure for students leaving for battlefronts during World War II.

Domestic lumber and abundant plants help the 47.4-meter-high woodland-themed stadium blend in with the surrounding greenery of Tokyo’s Meiji Jingu Gaien area.

The 60,000 seats, colored in five different earth tones, create a mosaic representing sunbeams filtering through a forest.

The JSC is proud the stadium meets “the world’s highest ‘universal design’ standards.” The careful attention paid to the accessibility guidelines published by the Olympic organizers has created a quality environment for spectators, regardless of age or disability.

“We’re getting good reviews (from people with disabilities) for our careful manner of dealing with details,” a JSC representative said of the meticulous communication process.

As a result of more than 20 hearings with such organizations, toilet seat heights were adjusted upward by a centimeter and Braille signs in elevators were posted 2 millimeters higher.

The first floor is on the ground level, facilitating smooth access for wheelchair users and those with mobility issues. The 500 spots designated for wheelchair users has been set so that even spectators standing in front of them will not obstruct their view.

“I can have a grandstand view of the competition, and also felt I can quickly get out in the event of an earthquake,” said Yasuhiko Funago, an Upper House lawmaker with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

A large number of Wi-Fi hot spots have been installed, allowing some 30,000 simultaneous connections to cope with the high demand anticipated during the games.

The 850-meter-long fifth-floor concourse encircling the stadium will be open to the public even after the games when no events are held. From there, visitors can enjoy seasonal vistas of the cherry blossoms or the brilliant autumn leaves, as well as Shinjuku’s skyline, Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji.

The completion marks the end of a project that was first conceived in 2011 — two years before Tokyo was named host of the 2020 Games — and born out of a desire to revamp the old National Stadium so it could hold 80,000 seats for the Rugby World Cup. The RWC final was eventually moved to Yokohama after the original design for the National Stadium was scrapped, delaying construction.

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