Tokyo Stadium, also known as Ajinomoto Stadium, was the scene of rugby sevens simulation matches recently in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
A total of 270 individuals, including operational staff from the Olympic Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee and the Japan Rugby Football Union, took part in the realistic simulation of actual competition amidst strict COVID-19 precautions.
Tokyo 2020 deputy executive director Yasuo Mori said he was pleased with the outcome of an operational test event for rugby sevens ahead of the rescheduled Olympics.
The event saw players from Japan’s men’s and women’s national sevens teams took part in exhibition matches behind closed doors.
Match-day operations were fully simulated as they will be during the event, complete with match officials, ground staff, the teams being announced on the stadium speakers and music being played after every try, according to World Rugby requirements.
Some of the procedures for holding the Olympic events such as having the athletes enter and exit the field through separate gates and having a remote-controlled vehicle deliver the ball so as to avoid having anyone touch it before play although adopted prior to the pandemic also serve to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
During the matches, staff could also be seen frequently spraying disinfectant on the benches used by the players.
COVID-19 countermeasures were also in place, including players wearing masks during the warm-up, all areas being frequently disinfected and the use of a small vehicle to return stray balls to the field of play.
World Rugby also confirmed the Japanese players on show are currently within their own training bubble and were kept separate from media and officials during the event.
“This is the first occasion where we have worked as one team at this rugby event,” said Mori.
Rugby sevens made its Olympic debut at Rio 2016 with Fiji beating Britain to win the men’s event and Australia defeating New Zealand to secure gold in the women’s competition.
“We are massively excited about being back in Japan,” said World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.
“We know that a successful rugby sevens program in the Olympics is a great showcase for our sport, a great driver for future fans and players and is an inspirational pathway. We know Japan will be great hosts, no matter what the circumstances.”Alan Gilpin – World Rugby Chief Executive
The final two women’s teams and remaining men’s side are set to seal their place at the Games during the repechage – the final Olympic qualification event – which is scheduled to be held in Monaco on June 19 and 20.
The rugby sevens tournament is set to run from July 26 to 31 at Tokyo 2020.