The brand-new National Stadium, which will be the main venue for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, was introduced to the general public on Saturday for the first time since construction was completed late last month.
A full-capacity crowd of 60,000 filled the stands a week after it was unveiled to the media.
The three-hour event featured cultural, entertainment and musical attractions on a chilly winter day.
In the opening part, the visitors were amused with performances of the Tohoku Kizuna Festival, which gathered the exemplary festivals of the six prefectures of the region. The festival, which was originally called the Tohoku Rokkon Festival, inaugurated in 2011 to pray for the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the repose of lost souls from the disaster.
Tokyo 2020 organizers have insisted that showing the world Tohoku’s recovery from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami would be one of the key objectives for the games.
Veteran soccer star Kazuyoshi Miura and Rugby World Cup heroes like Michael Leitch and Fumiaki Tanaka also made appearances before the crowd for talk sessions.
“I’m extremely excited,” said the 52-year-old Miura, who was the first person to step on the pitch during the event. “This is a special place for me. This is a very important place that I have full of memories.”
In the latter part of the night, Japanese popular musical groups Dreams Come True and Arashi performed for the audience, while there was a special 6×200-meter race called “One Race” with some renowned athletes, including former Jamaican track great Usain Bolt, top Japanese sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu and five-time Paralympic wheelchair gold medalist Hannah Cockroft.
The relay race was held in an unprecedented way, with two of the four participating teams virtually relaying the unconventional circle-shaped baton from Paris and Los Angeles, the host cities of the next two Summer Olympics after Tokyo.
Bolt, an eight-time Olympic gold medalist who retired in 2017, anchored “Team World Blue,” which relayed its baton from the French capital. His squad competed against Teams Red, Orange and Green.
Bolt’s team placed third overall. Kiryu and Team Red won the race, followed by Team Green. Team Orange came in fourth.
Ahead of the night event, the visitors had a chance to walk around the surrounding areas of the stadium and observe the exterior facade of the stadium, which required more than ¥150 billion for construction.
Company employee Toshitaka Sugai said that he stopped by the district once in a while to check out progress of the stadium’s construction. Now seeing the completed, state-of-art venue, the Sendai native, who now lives in Hachioji, could not restrain his excitement.
“I found out that there would be this event today and applied for a ticket on the first day,” said the smiling Sugai, whose effort paid off by obtaining a seat in one of the lower decks.
Sugai added that he would participate in the Olympics and Paralympics as a volunteer, and “hopes that he would assist the athletes” do their best.
Tomoaki Yomura, a second-grade high school student from Tokyo’s Edogawa Ward, was another that was moved to see the gigantic stadium in person. A track athlete himself, Yomura said that despite some problems, including a design change, the stadium looks great because “it feels there’s some things that make it different from other stadiums.”
When asked what he would be looking forward to about the day’s event, Yomura responded by saying, “(I’m looking forward to) the relay that runners like Bolt compete in, and the Tohoku festival.”
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