It was a bittersweet moment for scores of Japanese sports fan as they gathered to say goodbye to Tokyo’s National Stadium on Sunday, with a lavish send-off ceremony to the iconic venue. It will be torn down starting next month to give way to the new stadium which will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Olympics.
Music, fireworks and laser shows, plus other sports-related activities were part of a day-long ceremony that allowed fans to say goodbye to the 56-year-old stadium, which was originally built to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, which was the first time an Asian country hosted the world’s biggest sporting event. The estimated 36,000-strong crowd, most of whom got misty-eyed towards the end, were then invited to come on to the pitch after the Olympic flame was put out for good. They were allowed to take pictures, pose with replica trophies and even walk barefoot around the grounds.
The National Stadium saw a lot of memorable moments throughout the years, including hosting the annual football intercontinental Toyota Cup from 1980 to 2001, the 1991 World Athletics Championships where American Mike Powell set his world long jump record that still currently stands, and the J. League’s first ever football match in 1993. But more than just hosting these historic sporting events, the stadium was a symbol of Japan’s recovery from World War II. The athlete chosen to light the Olympic cauldron in 1964, Yoshinori Sakai, was born on August 6, 1945 in Hiroshima, the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on the city. Tokyo 2020 organizing chief Yoshiro Mori said that the stadium has a special place in the hearts of Japanese people. “I am extremely happy that I have been able to share the incredible memories the stadium brings and realize anew the wonder of sport with the many fans gathered here today,” he said.
[via New Straits Times]