an editorial by Kenji Fujiyama
translated by Brett Larner
With a crack of the whip from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the controversial plans for the 2020 Olympic Stadium that have generated a storm of criticism have gone back to the drawing board. Underlying Abe's decision, the news that the project's wasteful $2 billion+ USD price tag has disappeared is glad tidings indeed. But the price was not the only problem with the plans.
Official JAAF-certified athletics facilities are classified into four categories, with the World Championships and other major international events requiring the highest level facilities within that categorization. Absolutely essential for a facility to receive the highest level of certification is the presence of an auxiliary track, known as a sub-track. With no sub-track included in the plans for the 2020 Olympic Stadium, after the Olympics the JAAF would be unable to use it to stage major events like the World Championships let alone national-level events like the National Sports Festival or National High School Championships.
This problem has been pointed out by numerous members of the Japanese athletics industry from the early stages. But with decision makers showing a reluctance to allocate land and budget, plans instead opted for the construction of a temporary sub-track nearby with the rationalization being that the previous National Stadium did not have a permanent sub-track, temporary sub-tracks having been built for the 1964 Olympics and 1991 World Championships.
The requirement for a sub-track is not a luxury but a necessity. Because there are a large number of events in athletics, track events, field events and throws all go on at the same time. Add in athletes warming up for their upcoming events and you have an overflow situation. A sub-track is necessary to prevent accidents. In all the Olympics and World Championships I have covered around the world, I have never seen a stadium without permanent sub-track facilities.
The Olympics may have the budget to build a temporary sub-track, but there is no way that other events like the National Sports Festival or National High School Championships could afford to do the same. The main causes of the colossal cost of the Olympic Stadium plan are its bow-like structure (keel arch) and the enormous amount budgeted toward features other than its function as a stadium, including VIP rooms, meeting rooms, exhibition halls and restaurants. With heavy duty cost reduction a major theme, it is absolutely essential that the new plans include a permanent sub-track.