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Yokohama – Football and Weddings

For many football fans around the world, the Yokohama International Stadium is best known as the venue of the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ final and the annual FIFA Club World Cup. The stadium, more commonly known as the Nissan Stadium since March 2005 when the naming rights were sold to the Japanese car manufacturer, is aiming to become a centre of sporting activity not only for professionals, but also for all the people in the surrounding area.
The stadium was completed in October 1997 after three years and nine months of construction work at a cost of 60.7 billion yen. It was initially planned as the main stadium for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games for which Yokohama was bidding.
Although that bid failed, the 72,327-scater stadium (including 390 VIP seats and 28 royal box seats) became the largest in the country and has hosted many top international events. The highlight came on 30 June 2002 when Brazil beat Germany 2-0 to win the World Cup.
The stadium is designed to host a variety of sports, including rugby union and American football, and also host cultural events such as concerts. The nine-lane, 400m athletics track also carries a top rating, which enables the stadium to stage international track and field meetings. But football is still the stadium’s main sport and it is the home ground of the J-League Division 1 club Yokohama F. Marinos.
Since its opening on 1 March 1998 – a Dynasty Cup match between Japan and Korea Republic – 16 out of 72 Japan matches have been held at the Yokohama International Stadium. This figure may seem small, but the Japan Football Association likes to move international games around the country’s main stadiums. In any case, those 16 matches have seen a fair amount of drama.
For example, it was at the International Stadium that Hidetoshi Nakata scored the only goal in Japan’s win against Australia in a rain-soaked 2001 FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final, thus setting up a final against reigning world champions France in which the Japanese fought hard before eventually losing 1-0.
On 9 June 2002 the stadium also witnessed Japan’s first ever World Cup win, a 1-0 victory over Russia thanks to Junichi Inamoto’s winning goal.
Since 2005, the Yokohama International Stadium has served as the venue for one of the semi¬finals and the final of the FIFA Club World Cup, entertaining many fans in Japan and around the world with the best of club football. But it is not just about professionals.
The stadium’s track is also open for individual athletes and 17,245 trained there last year on dedicated days. The stadium also runs the Nissan Stadium Athletic Academy for children, which is headed by Susumu Takano, a former Japanese record-holder in the 400m.
Located in the 70.4-hectare Shin-Yokohama Sports Park, the stadium facilities include both a natural turf pitch and an artificial pitch, where J-League club Yokohama FC used to train. A baseball field was opened in August 2007 and there are plans for tennis courts, a training ground for throwing events such as the hammer and the shot put, and a multi-purpose sports field to be completed by 2010. The Nissan Water Park swimming pool and a gym within the stadium are already popular with people in the Shin-Yokohama area.
A sports medical centre started operations on the east side of the stadium in April 1998, offering medical/health checks and rehabilitation treatment, as well as health advice and sports clinics. The centre received 304,540 visitors in 2006.
The stadium also stages non-sporting events. Flea markets are often held on the stadium concourse and you can make your wedding day extra special by getting hitched at the state-of-the-art stadium. Since the start of the wedding service in December 2002, a total of 53 couples have been married inside the stadium and more are on the waiting list. Not surprisingly, many of them are football fans.
The stadium is blessed with convenient access. It is only a 15-20 walk from the Shin-Yokohama bullet train station, which is a 20-minute journey from Tokyo. With only a 10-minute ride on the subway from Shin-Yokohama station, you can also get to downtown Yokohama and Chinatown, which are both ideal locations for shopping, eating and sightseeing. “With good accessibility, we are hoping to make this area a centre for sporting events and activities for the local people,” said Masakatsu Kanno, press officer of the Yokohama City Sports Association, who jointly operate the stadium with Yokohama F. Marinos.
A big stadium cannot survive by merely relying on hosting big events. If stadiums such as the Yokohama International Stadium act as venues for local people and their activities, then their future may well be bright.