NTT Docomo-led group emerges as frontrunner to operate Tokyo’s National Stadium

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A consortium headed up by mobile phone operator NTT Docomo has been selected as the preferred negotiating partner to operate Tokyo’s National Stadium.

The consortium also includes construction company Maeda Corporation, financial services firm SMFL Mirai Partners, and the Japan Professional Football League.

The Japan Sport Council, which owns the stadium, has selected the group as its preferred negotiating partner and talks will now take place with a view to concluding an operating contract that would begin in April 2025 and run for 30 years.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the Jiji Press news agency has reported that the group has offered to pay 52.8 billion yen (£265m/€311m/$336m) to operate the stadium. The report added that the decision to switch the stadium to a private-sector operation will open up the possibility of naming-rights deals in the future.

The consortium will seek to transform the stadium into a “core base” for promoting sport and turn it into a year-round destination. The group has outlined three core ‘CHANGEs’ that it will seek to implement at the stadium.

The first focuses on management innovation through the introduction of a global business model that would see the stadium host a variety of events, including concerts and festivals featuring artists from Japan and abroad. This would be realised through large-scale investment, with big-screen displays, group seating and VIP rooms among the upgrades planned.

The second ‘CHANGE’ will aim to make the stadium a “sports mecca” that drives the development of Japanese sport. The group will seek to maintain optimal pitch conditions and host large-scale domestic and international tournaments at the stadium, including football matches played by the Japan national team.

The third ‘CHANGE’ will focus on creating a stadium with “borderless connections” and developing a smart stadium through the introduction of a next-generation communications platform, IOWN, a registered trademark of NTT Docomo’s parent company, NTT. The consortium will seek to host comprehensive entertainment events combining sport, music and other content.

The National Stadium was built for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which were delayed by 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and went ahead without spectators. The venue will host the World Athletics Championships next year.  

The National Stadium officially opened on December 15, 2019 following a near three-year construction project, as former Japanese Prime Minister, the late Shinzo Abe, attended a completion ceremony for the venue.