How the Sea Forest Waterway became the Tokyo 2020 Olympic regatta course
The story of how the Sea Forest Waterway became the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games regatta course began 15 years ago.
With the World Rowing Junior Championships. and Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games test event, introducing the venue to the world, there has been questions asked about how this location was chosen.
Tokyo was a candidate city for the 2012 Olympic Games and because of this the World Rowing Federation, FISA, was invited to Tokyo in 2004 to start the process to select a venue in or near Tokyo. There are 47 places in Japan were rowing takes place, from 250m with three lanes to 2000m with eight lanes. Of these 47, eight existing venues offer 2000m racing.
These eight venues were very closely examined for “Olympic” feasibility. They were the following:
- Ashidagawa where the 1994 Asian Games regatta took place
- Osaka Hamadera, in the port area of Osaka
- Nagaragawa in Gifu where the 2005 World Rowing Championships took place
- Lake Kawaguichiko only 93km away but three hours by car
- Lake Sagamiko which is only 54km away but surrounded by private land or forest
- Toda the 1964 Olympic venue which has six lanes but no free land left around the venue
- Itako on a river about 78km away
- Naganuma which is 360km from Tokyo.
An in-depth review found that many of the venues were too vulnerable to flooding or significant flow in case of heavy rain or typhoon. Or something impeded the 2100m distance. Or there was not enough free land around the venue for spectators, TV compound, security processing etc. Another consideration was the hotel infrastructure for athletes, media, spectators etc near the venue which, in some cases, was not sufficient.
And then there was the Sea Forest Waterway proposal. In the long-term planning for the growth of the City of Tokyo is the expansion of Tokyo Bay. There are now many man-made islands in Tokyo Bay which have been growing since 1926. Many new neighborhoods have developed on these reclaimed islands and the two islands on either side of the Sea Forest Waterway are on their development books. The new Tokyo Bay Bridge arrives on the south side of the Sea Forest Waterway and three tunnels come and go from both islands. So it is in the centre of a new development hub.
On the north side is Sea Forest park which is going to be the site of the cross country equestrian event at the Games. This is a fully man-made forested park on reclaimed land. It is already a busy location for school trips to plant trees from schools around the area. A key element to the success of this park was to create a relationship for the new neighborhoods around Sea Forest to have a relationship with the water, which the waterway will offer. There will be safe, water sport activities programmed at the waterway.
In terms of legacy, there are a large number of schools and universities that have indicated interest in holding daily training at Sea Forest as well as clubs and the Japanese national team. The world-class facilities at the centre will also be available for meetings and conferences.
For these and many other reasons, the Sea Forest Waterway became the rowing and canoeing course in the Tokyo 2012 and 2020 bids, and the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.