Philip Barker ©insidethegames

Although the design of the Tokyo stadium has been revised from the late Zaha Hadid’s original plans, it is still expected to be a magnificent backdrop for the 2020 Olympics. It will be the first time that two entirely different arenas on the same site have both staged the Games.

Tokyo’s only previous Games were held in 1964. The stadium had been built for the 1958 Asian Games at a cost of $3.8 million (£3 million/€3.6 million). The success of those Games helped win the Olympics. 

The capacity was only 55,000, and thought too small. In fact, organisers targeted an increase to a 100,000 capacity but this proved impossible "for practical reasons". So in 1962, work started on increasing the size to 72,000 with a further $3.3 million (£2.6 million/€3.1 million) dedicated to the task. 

Even the grass used for the infield was carefully selected. A Japanese variety called Hime Korai was chosen after extensive research. 

The red cinder track had a special watering mechanism, in order to give it "maximum elasticity and hardness", according to organisers. Above it was an Olympic cauldron some 2.1 metres in height. Lit by teenager Yoshinori Sakai, who was born the day the atom bomb landed on Hiroshima, it proved to be a symbolic monument to a more peaceful world.

The 1964 stadium stood the test of time and the best athletes returned there in 1991 for the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships, when American Mike Conley finally broke Bob Beamon’s longstanding world long jump record.

In the early 1980s, the stadium became the regular home of football’s World Club Championship when a neutral one off match was introduced between the champions of Europe and South America.

The doors finally closed in 2014 with an emotional ceremony in which the Japan Air Defence Force Aerobatic team flew above the stadium, just as they had in 1964.

"Over the past half century, the national stadium has truly been a sanctum of Japanese sport," Yoshirō Mori, President of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, told a crowd of some 40,000 who had come to say farewell.

When the plans for the replacement were unveiled, there came the revelation that no provision had been made for an Olympic cauldron. The new design has polarised opinion and the construction will be subjected to intense scrutiny.

Not all recent Olympic Games have required the building of brand new stadia. At Athens 2004, the shot put competitions were held in the arena where the ancient Games had taken place since 776 BC. Mischievously, organisers noted that the venue had "no air-conditioning".

A new Olympic Stadium will be built in Tokyo  ©Getty Images
A new Olympic Stadium will be built in Tokyo ©Getty Images

More recently at Rio 2016, the Maracanã staged the Opening and Closing Ceremonies as well as football. It had been built for the 1950 Football World Cup and was renovated for the 2014 tournament.

The idea of using an old existing stadium bore fruit in 1896 when the Games were revived for the modern era in Athens. The impressive marble Panathenaic Stadium, built in the time of Lykourgos around 338 BC, was restored to its former glory. Greek philanthropist Georgios Averoff financed the endeavour. On the eve of the Games, a statue was unveiled in his honour.

"It is due to a new act of magnificent liberality on the part of Mr Averoff that the restoration of the stadium could have been undertaken by us and that thus the re-establishment of the Olympic Games has become an event of national importance," the Crown Prince told the gathering of dignitaries.

Nikolaos Politis wrote in the official report that "when its immense enclosure was filled with spectators, together from all parts of the world, when their shouts and acclamation were raised to the sky, our imagination carried us back to the glorious times of Ancient Hellas".

The stadium is perhaps best known as the finish of the marathon. Back in 1896 at the first Games, the arrival of leader Spiridon Louis had delighted the home crowd. The same arena also welcomed the marathon runners in 2004. It also proved an inspired setting for the archery competition.

Earlier that year there was an unexpected event staged at short notice. The Greek footballers shocked everyone to win Euro 2004 and a celebration was called for. The Stadium was packed to capacity that night.

The centrepiece of Athens 2004 was the more modern Spiridon Louis Stadium. It was built in the 1980s when the Greeks dreamed of hosting "Golden Games" in 1996 to celebrate the centenary of the Modern Olympics. It was used for the 1982 European Athletics Championships, but the Olympic dream did not happen, at least in 1996.

Athens was eventually chosen for 2004, but the building works were delayed by a series of disputes. By 2000, then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch felt so concerned as to issue organisers with an "amber warning" and the following year Coordination Commission chief Denis Oswald admitted "the work that remains to be done is huge".

In early 2004, the Olympic Park and stadium still had the appearance of a building site. An 18,000 tonne arched roof had been designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. It was only hoisted into position less than three months before the Games were due to open but they were described as a "dream" by IOC President Jacques Rogge.

A century ago when the Games were established, few nations had arenas fit for an Olympic celebration so they built something new.

The historic stadium in Athens remains in use  ©Getty Images
The historic stadium in Athens remains in use ©Getty Images

The 1908 Games were transferred to London at short notice, when an Anglo French exhibition was arranged in the city. A deal was done with those organising the exhibition that "the Exhibition Committee should construct at their own cost all the racing tracks and buildings necessary for carrying out the Olympic Games, and should provide all necessary equipment, attendants, advertisements etc".

The new stadium was planned to hold more than 66,000 and the cost was at least £44,000 ($55,000/€52,000).

Eventually, that area of London became known as White City, but at the time the new structure was known as the "Great Stadium". It had a running track, cycling course and an open air swimming pool. During the Games, it staged a wide range of sport including gymnastics, archery, wrestling, hockey, rugby union, football and even lacrosse.

Much later it staged rugby league and the 1934 British Empire Games. It was also briefly the home ground for Queens Park Rangers Football Club and staged one match at the 1966 World Cup.

It was best known as an athletics arena, home to the AAA Championships and dramatic floodlit meetings in the 1950s. It also became a popular greyhound venue.

By the mid 1980s, by now rather dilapidated, it was demolished. BBC Television studios were built on the same site. They did not forget the Olympic heritage completely. A stone recording where the marathon finished is inlaid into the pavement.

In 2012, past and present came together at the same spot when Pierre de Coubertin’s descendant Antoine de Navacelle exchanged the Olympic flame with television star Sir Bruce Forsyth.

A century before, Stockholm had welcomed the Games to Scandinavia.

The original idea was for a temporary stadium to be erected at the Ostermalm Athletic Grounds, but this plan was dropped. Architect Torben Grut considered no fewer than five potential sites before a final decision. The stadium combined stone with wood and the approach was decorated with statues.

"Here shall be an open temple of Swedish Granite sculpture," said Grut. He envisaged statues of men and women which were to decorate the approaches. "I imagine the titans' eyes closed every muscle alert, I imagine the women with clear sun filled eyes," he said.

There were also wrought iron beacons inside the stadium. These were "intended for use occasionally during the year when great festivals are celebrated at the stadium".

An American report of the Games described it as "a modern independent organic development of early medieval Swedish architecture".

Montreal's Olympic Stadium was mired by debt problems  ©Getty Images
Montreal's Olympic Stadium was mired by debt problems ©Getty Images

The stadium is still used regularly for an athletics Grand Prix meeting and staged one further unique Olympic celebration. In 1956, the equestrian competitions were held there after quarantine regulations made it impossible for them to be held in Melbourne.

Although a new stadium can be a welcome new facility, it sometimes proved to be a millstone. Such was the case with the 1976 Games in Montreal. The stadium was designed by the French architect Roger Taillibert but difficulties with the unions and a particularly harsh winter dogged the progress of construction. At one stage matters were so bad that it was said that each pre-molded section of the stand had its own crane.

The official Olympic Report lists the estimated cost. In November 1972 it was $132.5 million (£105 million/€125 million). This had tripled by 1975 and as of August 1976 was $795.4 million (£633 million/€753 million). It was perhaps little wonder that the stadium became known locally as "The Big Owe".

On the day the Montreal Olympic Games opened in 1976, a crane hung above an unfinished stadium.

Crane or no crane, the stadium bore witness to some remarkable performances. The great Cuban Alberto Juantorena over 400m and 800m and the remarkable flying Finn Lasse Viren, gold medallist at 5,000m and 10,000m for the second successive Games.

The Closing Ceremony featured the stadium’s first streaker, though it should not have been such a shock. In Ancient times athletes competed without clothing.

The Olympic report insisted "the ongoing use of the Olympic Stadium is a continuing benefit for the citizens of the host city" but the problems continued. Although the Montreal Expos played their first baseball match in 1977, many considered the arena to be unsuitable for a ball park. Problems with the roof continued to cast a shadow over future events. The Rolling Stones were due to play there in 1998, but two concerts were cancelled when snow plunged through the roof.

The tower above the stadium was completed after the Games and remains a tourist attraction to this day.

Industrial relations were not a problem with the building of the Beijing Bird’s Nest for the 2008 Olympic Games. Construction was always ahead of schedule. A feature of the design was a huge underground chamber which housed the props for the ceremonies.

Engineers Arup had used "advanced seismic analysis" to make sure the stadium, built in a vulnerable area, would withstand earthquakes.

It proved a fitting stage for Usain Bolt who achieved the sprint double and Lionel Messi who inspired Argentina to Olympic football gold.

Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium was well advanced two years before the Games ©Philip Barker
Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium was well advanced two years before the Games ©Philip Barker

The biggest event held there since has been the 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships, but many feel that it has become an expensive white elephant.

The stadium will make history in 2022. It will become the first to host a Winter and Summer Opening Ceremony.

The 1920s were also a good decade for Olympic stadia. The original Wembley Stadium opened for business in 1923, 25 years before it held the Olympics. Built for a massive exhibition, it had shot up in 300 days. The strength of the terraces was tested by soldiers marching up and down. It passed another test when an estimated 200,000 swarmed over the barriers and into the ground for the 1923 FA Cup final.

When the 1944 Games were awarded to London, Wembley was listed as the central stadium. Because of the war they never took place but London was chosen for 1948. A cinder track was installed shortly beforehand. The great Dutch athlete Fanny Blankers Koen won four gold medals.

The old stadium remained in use until the year 2000. The famous Twin towers were finally demolished in 2002 and a new structure rose on the same site. It opened in 2007 and hosted the football finals at the 2012 Games.

Barcelona's Montjuic Stadium was also originally constructed in the 1920s for an exhibition. It opened in 1929 with a football match between a local team and Bolton Wanderers, then a leading side in England. A correspondent with The Spectator spoke of "the youth, speed and enthusiasm of the Catalans".

Barcelona duly bid for the 1936 Games but the IOC famously preferred Berlin. Instead, Barcelona organised Workers' Games but on the day they were due to open, the country was plunged into a bitter civil war.

In 1955 the stadium held the Mediterranean Games but required much more work to bring it up to standard when the city was at last chosen for the 1992 Olympics. Excavations deep into the site lowered the field of play. When work was complete, the stadium reopened for the 1989 IAAF World Cup, but the gods were not kind. Rain cascaded down and the abiding memory of the competition was of a comical spectator inelegantly hurdling during the downpour. Only one stand is covered but happily this did not prove a problem during the 1992 Olympics themselves.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the early 1930s ©Philip Barker
The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the early 1930s ©Philip Barker

After the Games Espanyol Football Club moved in, although they have since relocated elsewhere in the city. It has also served as a "home" football venue for Andorra and hosted the 2010 European Athletics Championships. It is still a popular concert venue and the artifacts of the 1992 Games are well cared for too, in a special museum immediately next door.

The stadium itself now bears the name Lluis Companys, the Catalan President of the Generalitat who was shot by the Francoists during the civil war. His name is now forever associated with one of the happiest moments of Catalan history.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was built in the 1920s as a memorial to the fallen. It could take 105,000 spectators and was made available to the Los Angeles 1932 Olympic Organising Committee "complete in every respect for the general purposes for which it was built".

An Olympic Torch was erected above the central arch of the peristyle, "embracing a special arrangement by which a flame could be lighted at an appropriate moment". At the same end of the stadium, a giant scoreboard took shape. "In this location it was plainly visible from all parts of the stadium," claimed organisers. It had three floors where operators compiled the display of results using boards bearing each number and letter.

Above the scoreboard, sailors from the United States Navy were responsible for hoisting flags at the medal ceremonies.

The Olympics returned there in 1984 and were a huge success with a profit to match. In the interim, the staple of college American football often filled the stands. NFL returned there this Autumn for the first time since 1994.

The Coliseum might yet write a new chapter of Olympic history. It features prominently in the bidding material for the 2024 Games and could become the first stadium to stage three Olympics.