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Local gov'ts consider uses of Olympic Village wood after Tokyo 2020

This drawing shows a model for the "village plaza" exchange facility area at the athletes' village for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, to be made from wood collected from around Japan. (Image courtesy of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games)

Despite just under three years remaining until the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, regional governments across Japan are already thinking about what to do with locally grown wood that will be used to build the "Village Plaza" -- a meeting area set to be part of the Olympic Village, in Tokyo's Chuo Ward -- after the global event.

As soon as the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics end in September 2020, the plaza will be dismantled, leaving behind a substantial amount of Japanese wood. The pieces of timber will then be returned to the various local governments across the country, after being engraved with some kind of memento showing that the pieces were part of the Olympics and Paralympics.

The question remains, however, what should the authorities do with the wood once Tokyo 2020 is over? Using the pieces to build monuments, or placing them in schools or government buildings -- so as to pass on the Olympic legacy -- are just some of the suggestions.

Once completed, the Village Plaza in the Olympic Village will consist of a one-story wooden building with an area of about 6,000 square meters. It will be built using approximately 2,000 cubic meters of timber such as cedar, cypress and larch that will be loaned by a total of 63 local authorities across the country. The plaza is scheduled to be used for purposes such as hosting Olympic Village ceremonies, in addition to being a media area.

With regard to post-tournament uses for the wood, the city of Tome in Miyagi Prefecture -- which will provide locally grown cedar -- plans to use the timber to create 1.5-meter high monuments and display them in 10 junior high schools across the city, and also at a rest area along a major road. Incidentally, the same city gained attention when it was considered as a possible alternative venue for boating, canoeing and sprinting events during Tokyo 2020 -- although nothing transpired in the end.

"We want to create some kind of legacy, because our city will be part of Tokyo 2020," a representative from Tome Municipal Government explains.

Meanwhile, the town of Shirakawa in Gifu Prefecture is thinking of using the wood as an interior material when it comes to rebuilding the town hall in fiscal 2020. The town is renowned for a type of timber called Tono cypress, which has a pale pink-colored surface.

The wood has been useful in the construction of visible columns in houses in the Tokai region, but recently, such columns tend to be concealed. Commenting on the town's contribution to Tokyo 2020, a municipal government representative says, "We want to get our name known once again at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics."

The village of Neba in Nagano Prefecture is also one of the various "wood lenders." After Tokyo 2020, it is considering using locally grown cedar to create rest areas and benches at the tourist spot "Neverland." Meanwhile, Iwate Prefecture, which will contribute a considerable amount of Pinus densiflora, wants to put the timber toward a "sports legacy" of some kind or to use the wood as a symbol of the area's recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Furthermore, Kagoshima Prefecture plans to ask people in the prefecture what to do with the wood.

Commenting on the long-term use of the timber, Yukihiko Nunomura, a senior executive board member of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, says, "The wood can create a new lease of life in hometowns as objects commemorating the Olympics and Paralympics. It would be great if this whole thing becomes a model of sustainability."

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