'Cool' Tokyo stadium ready 7 months early

The National Stadium in Tokyo will host its first competitive football game next month, when the Emperor's Cup final is played.
The National Stadium in Tokyo will host its first competitive football game next month, when the Emperor's Cup final is played. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO (AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS) - Organisers of next year's Tokyo Games yesterday formally unveiled its 60,000-seater main Olympic Stadium , more than seven months before the opening ceremony - with a host of special features to beat the feared heat.

Built on the site of the national stadium used for the 1964 Olympics, it has five floors above ground and two below, with greenery planted on the decks to provide shade from the scorching summer sun.

The eaves around the outer perimeter keep out sunlight and rain and will help channel breeze into the stadium. There are also eight mist-spraying facilities, 185 fans and 16 air-conditioned lounges.

Opening the facility, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed its "top-level universal design" and "harmony with its surrounding environment".

Renowned architect Kengo Kuma designed the stadium along traditional Japanese lines, with the use of wooden eaves and domestic lumber helping it to blend into the surroundings in central Tokyo.

It will host the opening and closing ceremonies plus the flagship athletics events.

However, the marathon will not have its traditional finish there, as the event has been moved to Japan's northern island of Hokkaido to avoid the expected heat and humidity of the capital.

The unveiling will come as a relief after the humiliation in September 2016, when Mr Abe scrapped the original plans from the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid as the costs surpassed US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion).

The change meant construction did not begin until December 2016 and the stadium was unable to host matches at this year's Rugby World Cup as originally planned.

The stadium height was also lowered to 47m from the original design of 70m, which was criticised as too high and for being a potential eyesore on Tokyo's skyline.

Total construction costs including design and supervising fees came to 156.9 billion yen (S$1.95 billion), within the budget, according to officials.

The stadium will see its first sporting action on Saturday, when former sprint champion Usain Bolt will take to the track for a special exhibition relay. The first competitive action there will be the Emperor's Cup football final on New Year's Day.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Cool' Tokyo stadium ready 7 months early. Subscribe