TOKYO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Tokyo’s iconic National Stadium is poised to receive a billion dollar renovation, turning it into a space-age venue with moving seats for the 2019 rugby World Cup, Reuters has learned.
Japan will host rugby’s showcase tournament a year before the 2020 Olympics, which Tokyo has bid for again after losing out in the running for 2016.
If successful with its tender, the new-look National Stadium, located close to Tokyo’s bustling centre, would double up as the main stadium for the rugby World Cup and Olympics.
“We are in talks with the stadium owners and Tokyo government about it being the venue for both the World Cup and the Olympics,” Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) chairman Tatsuzo Yabe told Reuters.
“It will have seating for 80,000 to 100,000. We have to knock down the current National Stadium - it is old and only has a capacity of around 50,000.”
Yabe said plans would include retractable seating, similar to the revolutionary Sapporo Dome, the hi-tech jewel in Japan’s crown at the 2002 soccer World Cup with a ‘floating’ pitch.
“It will have seats which can be moved in when we need the track for the Olympics and back for ball games like soccer and rugby,” Yabe said.
“It will cost around 100 billion yen ($1.31 billion). That would be the budget for it with the plan for construction to be completed by 2018.”
Tokyo’s National Stadium was built for the 1964 Olympics, the first to be held in Asia. It also staged the world athletics championships in 1991 and soccer’s Intercontinental Cup from 1980 to 2001.
Japan’s Olympic bidders had planned to construct a new stadium on Tokyo Bay for the 2016 Games, before the city lost out to Rio de Janeiro in the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voting.
The IOC, however, raised concerns about emergency evacuation with three sides of the stadium facing the sea.
Japan have plenty of options for rugby World Cup venues other than the tournament’s main stadium with the 10 grounds from the 2002 soccer World Cup among possible candidates.
JRFU officials have also indicated their desire to host games outside of Japan for Asia’s first rugby World Cup, with Hong Kong and Singapore among those reportedly in the frame.
“We may use 2002 World Cup soccer stadiums,” said Yabe. “We have about 10 stadiums across Japan (we are considering).”
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