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Project Report: Japanese New Iconic National Stadium, Tokyo

The new National Stadium in Japan is a landmark project with a challenging timescale and a nailed on deadline.

Japan’s existing National Stadium
Japan’s existing National Stadium
Japan’s existing National Stadium sits in a large sports park in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward, a busy suburb of the capital city. The existing venue was opened in 1958 for that year’s Asian Games, and went on to be the centerpiece of the 1964 Summer Olympic Games. 

At the time it was a world-class stadium, but sporting venues have come a long way in the intervening 50 years. Today the National Stadium’s shallow bowl, open-top design and relatively low capacity of just over 54,000 people, only 48,000 of which are seated, make it something of an out-dated facility. Recognizing this, the facility’s owner, quasi-governmental organization Japan Sport Council (JSC), has been looking at some time to refurbish or replace the stadium. This was given a certain impetus by the decision in July 2009 by the International Rugby Board (IRB) to name Japan as the host of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

According to Yoshitaka Takasaki, JSC’s divisional manager for its general affairs department, and the man responsible for the administrative aspects of planning and constructing the new Narional Stadium. the decision to build a new facility was taken in early 2012. At the time, this was purely in light of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, but the project received another boost in September 2013, when Tokyo won the competition to host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Planned Iconic New National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
There can be little doubt about JSC’s ambitions for the quality of the venue it wants to build. As the organization's president, Ichiro Kono said, "As a national project conducted once every  half century, we aim to build a stadium  that will be recognized as a global model.”  Mr Takasaki said the plan was to build  a venue that would be suitable for a range of events — not just sports like rugby, athletics and football, but concerts as well. A closeable roof was another requirement to allow the stadium to be used in all weathers and in terms of capacity, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) requires the main athletics stadiums to seat 80,000 people, so that was a critical requirement too.

One of the problems with combined athletics and ball sports stadiums is that the presence of a running track can leave spectators too far from the action when it comes to a rugby or football match. To get around this problem, JSC envisages a design where a moveable lower tier of seats can be pushed out over the track to put fans much closer to the pitch.
This stadium could be the key venue for any world-class sporting event said Mr Takasaki.

Between the decision to build a new stadium and the announcement of Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympics, JSC launched an architectural competition to design the new venue. As with every aspect of this project, this was done on a tight timescale, with the July 2012 competition launch carrying a deadline of November 25 that year.

Despite the challenging timetable, there was no shortage of architects entering with their visions for what would clearly be a high-profile and iconic project. The winner was UK-based Zaha Hadid Architects. No doubt spurred by the news of Tokyo’s winning bid for the 2020 Olympics in September 2012. The other cities in contention up to that point had been Madrid, Spain and Istanbul, Turkey. 

Stadium Design

If Beijing had the Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 games, Tokyo's centerpiece venue stands a good chance of being nick named ‘The Cycling Helmet.’ The design features series of shallow arches rising from outside the bowl of the stadium, with translucent materials filling the voids between them to create the fixed and open-able sections of the roof. According to Mr Takasaki, the design is currently being finalised ahead of the start of work on site later this year. The first element of the project will be the demolition of the existing national stadium and the contract for this, valued at around JPY 6.7 billion (US$ 65 million) was due to be put out to tender.
Planned Iconic New National Stadium, Tokyo, Japan
The existing stadium is a substantial structure that escaped the 2011 earthquake unscathed, so its demolition looks set to be a significant project in its own right. It is a five storey structure built predominately from reinforced concrete. The total area of the stadium, including track and in-field is 71,707 sq.m, with the stadium structure itself having a 33,716 sq.m footprint. 

Mr Takasaki said the demolition portion of the project was scheduled for 16 months, with a start date in July this year. That work would carry on until October 2015, with the 42-month construction phase due to follow-on immediately.

With the start of the construction portion of the scheme still well over a year away, JSC is working to finalize the designs. Mr Takasaki said the main consideration was to decide between the design as originally published or a minimized version which would be cheaper and quicker to build, but which would leave out some elements.

If everything runs to schedule, the planned timescale would see the stadium completed in February 2019, some six to seven months ahead of the Rugby World Cup kick-off on September 6 thar year. The opening of the 2020 Summer Olympics is due to take place on July 24 the following year, some 17 months after completion of the project. 
According to JSC, the total budget for the project is JPY 169.2 billion (US$ 1.64 billion). The bulk of this some JPY 138.8 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) is of course for the construction of the new stadium. The remaining JPY 30.4 billion (US$ 295 million) breaks down inro the JPY 6.7 billion (US$ 65 million) for the demolition work and JPY 23.7 billion (US$ 230 million) for various environmental and development work associated with the project.

Funding will come from a combination of national Government funds, Tokyo’s City budget and a contribution from Toto, the Japanese national sports lottery. Mr Takasaki said the size of the individual contributions were yet to be decided but added that the project was effectively underwritten by the national government. One of the biggest problems associated with the project is, according to Mr Takasaki the planning and flow of materials. Tokyo is a famously large dense and sprawling city and the logistical considerations are not helped by the fact that plans need to be coordinated with the city government as well as the three suburban wards that border on the stadium site. It all makes for a formidable challenge, but as Mr Takasaki said,
So far. so good.

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