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Kick off for Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016

Japan’s top sports officials kicked off proceedings at the eagerly awaited Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2016 conference and exhibition which opened today in Yokohama.

The leaders of Tokyo 2020, Rugby World Cup 2019, football’s J-League and basketball’s B-League joined Michiyasu Takahashi, Deputy Commissioner of Japan Sports Agency to welcome visitors to the event.

Hundreds of delegates packed into the conference suite at the Yokohama Arena to hear Takahashi say that the value of the sports market in Japan is expected to triple by 2025 from 5 trillion yen currently.

The boom will be driven as Japan’s venue owners look to embrace the commercialisation and fan experience techniques that are designed to deliver better facilities for fans. Takahashi said the growing popularity of sports such as football, baseball and basketball meant better stadia were needed for fans.

Stadia and arenas used to be designed with athletes in mind but the other aspect is for spectators and for them, sports facilities need to be improved.

Japan is gearing up for a sporting bonanza in the next few years with the Rugby World Cup being staged in 2019 and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.

Toshiro Muto, CEO of Tokyo 2020, said there would be 300 Olympic gold medals and 500 Paralympic gold medals up for grabs when the games come to the city in four years.

He described how the games would be centred around two zones in the city – the Heritage Zone – an area from the 1964 summer Games – and the Bay Zone, with the athletes’ village being situated in an overlapping area.

Muto stressed that costs were being kept down for the staging of the Games.

In the Heritage zone there are numerous existing facilities that can be used. In the Bay one there are some existing facilities but there are also new facilities that are going to be constructed.

Masaaki Okawa, chairman of the Japan Professional Basketball League (B-League), said that while the US and Europe have some wonderful sports stadia and arenas, Japan lags behind.

We wondered why we can’t develop the same here in Japan. The answer is because we don’t have a fully-fledged sports culture.

But he said that was coming and that ultimately the “arena of our dreams” would follow.

Akira Shimazu, President and CEO of the Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee, said he hoped Japan could follow up the success of the 2015 staging in England, when Japan marked themselves out as a force in the world game with victory over South Africa.

It was a record breaking tournament with 2.5 million spectators, far larger than any tournament in the past. It was a very profitable games. We would expect 2 million spectators with 20% coming from overseas. We need to go for it!

Image: Michiyasu Takahashi, Mitsuru Murai, Alan Levett (Chairman, Alad Ltd), Toshiro Muto, Masaaki Okawa, Akira Shimazu