Tokyo 2020’s array of fantastic, modern venues should generate some extraordinary atmosphere next summer – but few will rival the Saitama Super Arena. Already one of Japan’s most famous venues for major sporting events and concerts, at the Games it will host the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments (together with the Aomi Urban Sports Park).
A glimpse of the atmosphere this arena can create was given by the basketball test event. More than 18,000 fans squeezed in to watch the host country’s international sides play, and they weren’t disappointed. At times, the volume rivalled the level that might have been generated when Metallica and AC/DC played here.
As part of the International Basketball Games, Japan’s men played three matches, while the country’s women’s side participated in two fixtures of the Mitsui Fudosan Cup.
The women were undefeated, beating Chinese Taipei on two consecutive days, 91-59 and 81-58, respectively.
The men’s side lost 108-93 to Argentina in their first game – but then raised the roof by beating world No. 22-ranked Germany 86-83 in a thriller.
It was a landmark, too: ranked 48th in the world, Japan’s men’s team had never beaten a European nation in FIBA World Cup competition. Washington Wizards star Rui Hachimura got 31 points, and the 18,355 fans present went wild.
On the final day of play, the men were edged out by Tunisia in a highly exciting contest, with Michael Roll scoring in the last second to grab a 78-76 win.
Overall, the arena, situated in the Saitama Prefecture, looked like an iconic home for Olympic action. Its highly innovative design incorporating a “moving block” system (weighing 15,000 tons and standing 41.5m high) allows seating to be shifted to maximise space.