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New stadium and giant Olympic Village: How Tokyo changed with a year to go to 2020 Games

© Alexei Zavrachayev/TASS
The New National Stadium is being constructed on the site of the old National Stadium, which was built for the 1964 Olympics

TOKYO, July 24. /TASS, Alexei Zavrachayev/. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, which will kick off in exactly one year time, are in high gear. As the TASS correspondent saw for himself, most of the construction works are in their final stage and the organizers will only have to launch the 365-day countdown.

A quiet and calm district of Shinjuku is not far from major railway station Shinjuku, which cuts through this district, and the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Typical Japanese high-density and low-rise buildings stretch deep inside the neighborhood with narrow roads for cars and pedestrians. Akasaka Palace is located not far from here. This is where the Olympic Stadium is being constructed, where exactly in one year time hundreds of athletes will march carrying national flags to the deafening applause of spectators at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Olympics. Meanwhile, the slow-paced life of the vicinity is slightly disturbed by the noise of the construction and voices of traffic controllers, who guide people along partly-closed sidewalks.

The New National Stadium is being constructed on the site of the old National Stadium, which was built for the 1964 Olympics. The construction site is isolated by a low white fence, which is fitted out with the noise-level meters, while all exits provide a tyre washing service to avoid trucks' spreading dirt from the construction site around the city. With even the first glimpse of this enormous building it is obvious that constructors and designers lived up to their project promises. The territory is very green indeed, sporting newly planted trees, which are still young, while flower tubs with various shrubs hang down from the arena’s galleries.

A small park has already opened not far from the stadium. It features Olympic Rings and the statue of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic Games and the second president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It also sports downsized copies of the Olympic flame cauldrons built for the Olympic Games hosted by the Japanese cities of Tokyo (1964), Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998). This is currently the main venue, where residents of Tokyo and tourists gravitate to feel the spirit of the upcoming sports holiday and, of course, to take memorable pictures with the stadium and the Olympic Rings in the background.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma is the designer of the stadium construction project. His plan is rooted in the traditions of the national Japanese architecture in the style of ‘wood and green,’ which uses elements of ancient and medieval structures. The 68,000-capacity stadium is environmentally friendly and perfectly fits in the surrounding landscape. The construction work was estimated at $1.2 billion and is scheduled to be completed by December.

Olympic Village on the island

One of the most ambitious 2020 Olympics projects is the Olympic Village for athletes on the artificial island, Harumi, in Tokyo Bay. The total area of the construction is 13 hectares, while five more hectares will be occupied by parks and infrastructure. In all, 21 residential houses, which will be between 14 and 18 floors tall, will be commissioned in the first stage to accommodate Olympians.

The construction work will continue on the island after the Olympics are over and, according to the plans, two more 50-storey residential and office buildings will emerge in addition to kindergartens and schools. On the whole, by 2023, when residents will start moving in, 5,600 apartments will be in place and the population of the district will stand at over 12,000.

"Apartments will go on sale on July 26. A client will have to book an apartment, but mortgage payments will start only in 2023, when we will commission all houses and complete the necessary infrastructure. In other words, moving in a new apartment will be possible only three years after the Olympics," a spokesperson for the construction contractor told TASS.

According to her, a concept of "a city within a city" will be implemented on the island, whose residents will have access to all necessities within a walking distance. The plans also stipulate the planting of some 4,000 trees and the construction of two big parks. "Another important peculiarity of this district will be the introduction of the first system of high-speed buses in Tokyo, which will run at short intervals of time and along designated lanes," she added.


Everything is on schedule

Preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games have entered the final stage and, according to the Japanese authorities, there are currently no delays regarding the commissioning dates, while the International Olympic Committee has also reported a high state of readiness of the Japanese capital for the Olympics. Twenty-five sports venues are located in Tokyo, mostly in the port area, including on artificial islands in the bay area. Seventeen more venues are located outside the city.

"We started holding testing events at the already constructed venues since late June to assess their capabilities. Moreover, we will also practice before holding the Olympics with the help of the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off next month in Japan. We must also start thinking now how we will be using the Olympic facilities after the Games," Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike told a news briefing with foreign journalists dedicated to one-year countdown to the Olympics.

According to her, great attention is paid to security measures as well as to hot weather response. "We will be handing out headwear and hand fans at the stadiums. We are also installing special equipment to disperse water vapor in the streets across the city and will do our best to offer as many shaded places as possible. But we hope that next summer will be as cool as this one," she said.

Among other measures is asphalt laying with a special coating, which is capable of absorbing the heat. The temperature of this special asphalt in the direct sun will be eight degrees lower compared to a regular asphalt. In an effort to minimize the heat impact part of the open-air sports disciplines, including marathon running, will be held early in the morning, beginning at 6.00 am.

The 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo are scheduled for July 24-August 9 and the 2020 Summer Paralympic Games will run between August 25 and September 6. The Olympic flame will be lit on March 11, 2020 in memory of the 2011 tragedy and the Olympic torch relay will start on March 26, 2020 from the Fukushima Prefecture.