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Tokyo's Japan National Stadium Brings Wild Design Back to the Olympics


A return to Asia for the Summer Olympics means a return to eye-catching architecture for Olympic stadiums. Tokyo isn't going to settle for garden-variety bowls and domes.

Already under construction, the new Japan National Stadium in Tokyo just became much more anticipated, since it was named as the main venue for Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics. Japan recruited Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid to design a skeleton-styled 80,000-seat stadium in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It will likely house opening/closing ceremonies, soccer, and rugby for two weeks in 2020.

Designed as a structural skeleton, the flowing roof ribs climb right down to the ground, serving as an inhabited bridge for spectators to enter the interior bowl. Pair up the white roof with lightweight translucent membranes (think: outside skin) and you’ve got a stadium with a look all its own, rivaling the Bird’s Nest from Beijing 2008.

Let's face it, London’s scaled down model (though Hadid did do a cool aquatics center) and Rio’s reinvention of Maracana didn't speak to the wildness of Olympic design. Leave that to the continent of Asia.

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Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and technology for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.