Tokyo 2020’s aquatics centre has been officially opened to the public some nine months before it will stage Olympic swimming and diving competitions.

Organisers decided that the Tokyo Aquatics Centre could become available from this month for private use as well as to sports federations for competition and practice use. The early opening for a facility that will become the home of Japanese aquatics has been described as “a glimpse of the Games’ rich legacy even before they take place”.

The $520m venue, constructed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), was inaugurated on Saturday, some eight months after work on it concluded and seven months after its scheduled opening ceremony was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The inauguration was attended by dignitaries and featured a ceremony showcasing Olympic swimming, diving, artistic swimming and Paralympic swimming. Following the displays, local residents were invited to tour the venue.

“There have been some unexpected things such as the postponement, but we need to hold a successful Games,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters.

“I really hope that the wonderful swimmers can unleash their powers and the world’s top swimmers exhibit great performances at this centre.”

The Tokyo Aquatics Centre includes a 10-lane main pool, a sub pool and a diving pool and will have a seating capacity of 15,000 at Games-time.

The facility was due to officially open on March 22 but that event was cancelled over coronavirus fears. Two days later the entire Tokyo Games was postponed until 2021. It was the last of the six permanent venues to be completed when work concluded in February.

Work on the venue began with the roof, which was built on the floor and thus shortened the construction period of the whole venue since it saved labour of elevating both workers and equipment.

“Once completed, the 7,000-ton and 10-metre-thick roof was then hoisted to 37 metres in three steps and supported by four core pillars. In its final position, it provided safety and improved work efficiency of the construction workers, who work under the roof,” organisers said.

The venue has solar panels, and ground heat exchanger systems which will be used for heating the pools’ water, significantly reducing the facility’s carbon footprint.

The layout of the venue is based on the Tokyo 2020 Accessibility Guidelines, with the facility designed to be accessible to all, including the elderly, people with impairments, parents with young children and those with guide dogs. It has universally designed toilets and wheelchair-accessible seats in areas designed with enough height difference between the rows of seating to ensure that those in wheelchairs can see clearly, even if spectators in front of them stand up.

Last week, the organising committee for next year’s Olympics in Tokyo concluded three days of security tests and COVID-19 countermeasures as it looks to ensure that the rescheduled Games can go ahead safely.

Images: ©Tokyo 2020