Eight-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt blazed his way around the brand-new track of the Olympic stadium last Saturday together with other star athletes like Marlou van Rhijn (Dutch Paralympian sprinter), Hannah Cockroft (British Paralympian and wheelchair runner) and many others.
The sporting greats ran an exhibition match relay “One Race” in front of a crowd of approximately 60,000 people. It was part of the ‘Hello, Our Stadium’ event to officially open the Olympic stadium.
“It was a great experience actually being here, running in front of so many people. I was happy and excited because I won't be getting to compete at the Olympics. The fact that I got to run on the track was an experience in itself. And as I said earlier, it was wonderful that everyone could come together and compete as well. It was for a great cause - we need to unite and become one,” Bolt said in a press conference afterwards.
The popular Jamaican athlete showed he still got his “faster than lightning” moves during the relay and drew loud cheers from the crowd. Bolt praised the condition of the stadium and also said that Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games might just see his world record broken.
“I know Tokyo is going to be extremely exciting because you can see the amount of people that was in the stadium,” Bolt added.
In a separate interview, van Rhijn, who won gold in the Paralympic Games London 2012 and two gold medals in Rio 2016 said: “I really like the idea that we're all running together – and that there's no difference if you're running on blades or wheelchair, or if you're an Olympian or if you're the fastest guy in Japan or in the world. We're all athletes and we're all here to support the sport and support the Games.”
The race was a unique moment in sporting history as both Olympic and Paralympic athletes got to share the same stage to compete in the 6x200m relay race.
‘I loved it every second. Every chance to trace on the track with Olympic champions that as Paralympians we never get to do, so I loved the way that it really challenged the perceptions and the differences between disability sport and able-bodied sport,” five-time British wheelchair race gold medallist Hannah Cockroft said.
Hello, Our Stadium
The “Hello, Our Stadium” sold-out gala was three-hour long celebration that featured a Tohoku Kizuna festival and pop performances from Japanese group Dreams come True and Arashi. Top Japanese sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu and Rugby World Cup heroes like Michael Leitch and Fumiaki Tanaka and Ryoto Nakamura also made an appearance.
The Olympic stadium was built by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma who wanted a strong emphasis on environmental awareness. He incorporated materials from Japan's 47 prefectures plus added mist-cooling systems to keep fans and athletes alike cool during competition events.
It will be the centrepiece of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 next year and will host athletic events as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
The Olympic Stadium will host the Emperor's Cup JFA 99th Japan Football Championship on 1 January 2020.