Rugby World Cup stadium opens in disaster-hit Kamaishi

Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium, the only new venue developed for Japan’s staging of the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has opened its doors with World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont stating it will act as a “beacon for hope” following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the city.

Kamaishi, which is located in Iwate Prefecture, has a strong rugby history and was selected as one of the 12 World Cup venues in March 2015.

Built on the former site of the local elementary and junior high schools on a riverside area of land in the Unosumai area, construction of the stadium began in April 2017. The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium has a permanent capacity of 6,000, however 10,000 additional temporary seats will be added for the two World Cup fixtures it is due to host.

Built at an estimated cost of 3.9 billion yen (£27.7m/€30.9m/$35.3m) largely covered by central government subsidies, the stadium was opened yesterday (Sunday) with a memorial match between the local Kamaishi Seawaves Rugby Football Club and Top League side Yamaha Júbilo.

Beaumont said: “The opening of the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium marks a very special moment on the journey to Rugby World Cup 2019. The stadium stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Kamaishi and will act as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, providing an important legacy for the future of this region of Japan that has rugby at its heart.

“Rugby World Cup will bring four top international teams, thousands of fans and the attention of the world to the region next year and promises to be one of the highlights of the event. World Rugby will continue to work closely with the organising committee and the Iwate Prefecture to ensure that the venue is a success, both for the Rugby World Cup, and for the future of the region.”

Akira Shimazu, Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee president and chief executive, added: “Kamaishi will be one of the great stories of Rugby World Cup 2019 and I am delighted that the tournament will help to bring this inspiring story of survival, resilience and reconstruction to the world.”

Kamaishi is by far the smallest host city for the World Cup. According to Japanese news agency Kyodo it had an estimated population of 39,400 before the earthquake and tsunami, with the March 11, 2011 disaster leading to the death of 1,064 residents.

The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium will host Fiji versus Uruguay in Pool D on September 25, 2019, followed by the Pool B match on October 13 between Namibia, which secured its place at the World Cup on Saturday, and the winner of the repechage tournament, which will take place in November in Marseille, France.

Image: World Rugby