Tokyo’s National Stadium hosts final sports event

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TOKYO (AP) - Tokyo’s National Stadium, the centerpiece of the 1964 Summer Olympics, hosted its final sporting event on Sunday before it is demolished to make way for a new 80,000-seat structure that will be the main venue of the 2020 Olympics.

Japan faced Hong Kong in a rugby match at the 54,000-seat stadium, which opened in 1958 and hosted the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as athletics, at the 1964 games.

Workers will begin demolishing the stadium in July and work on the new Olympic Stadium will begin in October 2015.

“I’ll be sorry to see this stadium go but it’s inevitable,” said salary worker Akira Hara, who attended Sunday’s match. “Even though it’s old, this was one of the more fan-friendly stadiums in Japan.”

There already has been criticism that the cost for the new stadium, which will feature a retractable roof, is too high. The original budget was 300 billion yen ($3 billion), but Japan’s government said the cost will be scaled down to 130 billion yen ($1.3 billion).

National Stadium played host to some memorable sporting moments over the years.

Bob Hayes won two gold medals at the 1964 Olympics, winning the men’s 100 meters and anchoring the 4x100-meter relay for the United States.

Ethiopia’s Abebe Bikila won his second straight Olympic marathon in 1964 and Peter Snell of New Zealand won the men’s 800- and 1500-meter events.

In 1991, the stadium hosted the athletics world championships where Carl Lewis of the United States set a record of 9.86 in the men’s 100 meters.

At the same meet, Mike Powell’s leap of 8.95 meters in the long jump broke Bob Beamon’s long-standing world record from the 1968 Summer Olympics.

The stadium was used primarily for soccer and rugby matches over the years, hosting Japan’s national football team and J-League matches.

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