Turn back to the past, face the future: Kōtō-ku and the development of the coastal area


Located at 7, 1-Chōme in Kōtō-ku’s Ariake district, the Ariake Urban Sports Park is one of the Tōkyō 2020 temporary venues. During the Games, it shall host the Skateboarding as well as the Cycling BMX Freestyle and the Cycling BMX Racing competitions. The venue counts three stands, with seating capacities of 7,000 (Skateboarding), 6,600 (BMX Freestyle) and 5,000 (BMX Racing). Whereas BMX Racing is on the Olympic Programme since Beijing 2008, Skateboarding and BMX Freestyle will make their debut at Tōkyō 2020. The three have been provisionally approved for Paris 2024, though it was declared that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a final decision in December 2020 (/ some time after the initially expected closure of the Tōkyō Games).

Along with Baseball/Softball, Karate, Surfing and Sport Climbing, Skateboarding got in September 2015 on the shortlist of sports to potentially be included at Tōkyō 2020. In June 2016, the Executive Board of the IOC announced that it would support the proposal to add the shortlisted sports and finally, on August 3, 2016, all of them (including BMX Freestyle joint to BMX Racing) were approved for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Programme. Skateboarding is divided into two disciplines, street and park, with both men’s and women’s competitions. BMX Freestyle, carried out in the park discipline, counts with presumably nine men and nine women riders (one of them being from host nation Japan) amongst Tōkyō 2020’s smallest competitions in terms of participating athletes. 

The Ariake Urban Sports Park is part of the Tōkyō 2020 named Tōkyō Waterfront City area, which shall during the Olympics offer a festive environment to a wide range of people. Tōkyō Waterfront City comprises seven Games venues, the Olympic Promenade where will be installed the cauldron, and two areas where Tōkyō 2020 partners can showcase their products and services. A Tōkyō 2020 megastore selling Tōkyō 2020 Official Licensed Products will also be located in the area. 

With the aim to go beyond the viewing of competitions and to involve spectators more actively at the same spot as the athletes, an Urban Festival shall take place at the Ariake Urban Sports Park and the close-by Ariake Gymnastics Centre, where gymnastics events (Olympics) and boccia competitions (Paralympics) will take place. Through this festival, visitors will get to experience urban sports and watch exhibition performances. Furthermore, adjacent to the Bay Zone Aomi Urban Sports Park, the so-called Playground will propose outdoor warm-up areas where individuals also without tickets can watch 3x3 Basketball players and Sport Climbing athletes getting ready and try themselves in climbing and other sports.

Under the label READY STEADYKYŌ, several test events were conducted since last year, including BMX Racing at Ariake Urban Sports Park. The originally scheduled date had been changed to Friday, October 11, due to typhoon Hagibis that hit the archipelago on October 12, 2019. 

This week, I went on a bicycle tour around some of the Tōkyō 2020 Bay Zone Venues, amongst others Ariake Urban Sports Park, which I had visited for the last time in the end of February. To my surprise, besides the prior accomplished tracks for the competitions, the three stands, as well as some containers and white festival tents had in the meantime been erected. When stopping at the fence in front of the ready, but empty venue, and old Sir in uniform approached. When I asked him about its progression and maintain, he disappeared and came back with a map of Tōkyō Waterfront City. He explained that these days there were not many people around, and said (in Japanese) well, we will see what happens with the Olympics. He didn’t seem particularly troubled by the postponement of the Games or concerned whether or not they would finally be held, but rather feeling responsible to pursue his mission and survey the area. When I thanked him and left, he waved at me, and returned to his position.

Somehow equanimous, serenely awaiting… It felt like the calm before the storm, which’s landfall may remain uncertain. 

The calm before the storm, Ariake Urban Sports Park, May 2020 © Louise Claire Wagner

{An extensive anthropological study about skateboarding and skateboarders in Tōkyō can be read (in French) in Julien Glauser’s very informative and captivating Tokyo-skate. Les paysages urbains du skateboard about which I wrote a recension that was published in Lectures anthropologiques about a year ago : http://lecturesanthropologiques.fr/lodel/lecturesanthropologiques/index.php?id=619}

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