©Shotaro Honda Moore

Tokyo 2020 Venues: Canoe Slalom Course

It’s no secret that there’s massive construction going on throughout Tokyo to host the upcoming Olympic games. One of the more intriguing sites is the under construction towards the fridge of Tokyo. Across the gigantic Arakawakako Bridge, connecting the Koto Ward to the Edogawa Ward, you can see layout for a structure being built to the South. This is just one of the many brand new facilities for the Olympics. The Canoe Slalom Course is currently under construction in preparation for Tokyo 2020. It is a unique looking venue and as it’s name suggests will host the canoe slalom event. This shouldn’t be confused with the canoe sprint event, which will take place at the Sea Forest Waterway venue. A little out of the way compared to others venues, it is still within reasonable distance to the inner city and more importantly the Olympic village. It is well worth the travel as it is located in between a waterfront and a massive park. Let’s take a look at some of the details of the events, location, transportation and the venue.

Events

A little lesser known event in the Olympics is the Canoe Slalom. Despite not being a household sport, the canoe slalom has a long history in athletics. With the obvious use of canoes stretching back thousands of years, it is easy to see why the sport began to quickly pick up popularity in the 1940’s. With the formation of the ICF (International Canoe Federation)in 1946 and the World Championships starting in 1949, the sport began to take off. The ICF has expanded to currently have over 157 countries affiliated with the organization. It would not make its debut as a part of the summer Olympics until the 1972 Munich games. The slalom would however go on a twenty year hiatus following the games in Germany. It wouldn’t be until the 1992 Olympics in Spain that it would gain a more permanent position.

There are going to be four different races within the Canoe Slalom event. Those are the Women’s C-1, Men’s C-1, Women’s K-1 and Men’s K-1. This is a different lineup of races than ever before, with previously there being no Women’s C-1 event and instead there was a Men’s C-2. If your curious about the lettering and numbering, it is quite simple. The letters stand for the equipment type (C=Canoe/K=Kayak) and the number is how many athletes on board. This will be the first time that their will be no doubles events as it was decided to be discontinued in the program following Rio 2016. Lets take a look at the rules and the course layout.

The canoe slalom is a solo timed race that requires athletes to navigate their vehicles through various gates. Courses have somewhere between 18–25 gates, with at least 6 or 7 of them being much more difficult upstream gates. The upstream and downstream gates are colour coordinated, green meaning downstream and red meaning upstream. You must clear all of the gates cleanly to avoid penalty time being added. Clipping a gate with anything from your boat, to your paddle, to your body will result in 2 seconds of added time. Missing a gate entirely will result in a 50 second penalty. Most courses only take somewhere between 80 to 120 seconds, meaning a missed gate usually can end a racers chances of proceeding.

In terms of dominance of the sport, there are really four countries that stand out in particular. They are Germany (20 medals), France (18 medals), Slovakia (14 medals), and the Czech Republic (11 medals). The most golds won by a country is Slovakia with 8 first place finishes. Germany also has 8 gold medals, but four were won in 1972 when the country was still separated into East Germany and West Germany.

Location & Transportation

Adress: 6–1, Rinkaicho, Edogawa-ku, Tokyo

The Canoe Slalom Course itself is located towards the outer fridges of the city. The construction of the site is east of the Koto Ward, across the Arakawakako Bridge. It is in the most southern part of the Edogawa ward and will be built inbetween the Arakawakako River and Kasai Rinkai Park. Here are two maps of the area below.

On The Left: A picture showing the location in relation to the city. On The Right: The closest map to the new venue. Where it says parking 2 is where the venue is currently being built.

The closest train station is the Kasairinkaikoen Station. It is part of the JR Keiyo Line, and is only a 14 minute ride from Tokyo Station. Kasairinkaikoen Station is a 12 minute walk from the Canoe Slalom Course itself. Upon exiting the station you are going to take a right and head west. There will definitely be signs navigating you through the park come 2020. However without directions, it is still relatively easy to find the venue. The Canoe Slalom Course is the on the western boundaries of the park, on the opposite side of the giant ferris wheel you will immediately see after exiting the train station. This will probably be the most convenient means of getting to the venue, but not the most direct. Buses are likely to be packed, unless there is a schedule change to increase the number of shuttles.

Kasairinkaikoen Station and the view upon exiting the station. The Canoe Slalom course is west of the station, on the opposite side of the ferris wheel. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

There are other options besides taking the train. You can go to a couple different surrounding bus stops in the area. The most direct means to get there is by taking the number 28 Toei bus from Kasai Station. You will be dropped off at Rinkai-Shako-Mae, which is a mere 7 minute walk from the Canoe Slalom Course. Definitely a quick way to get to the venue but the question is how busy will the buses actually be.

The final route is taking a ferry or waterbus to the facility. Kasai Rinkai Park is a massive place that has many means to get there. This includes a boat that is part of the Tokyo Mizube Crusing Line. It will drop you off 10 minutes away by foot, from the Canoe Slalom Facilities. It will also give you a beautiful view of the Tokyo Bay.

Venue

View of the unique shape of the venue that athletes will have to navigate for the canoe slalom event. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

This will be the only man made course in all of Japan. As Japan has many natural rivers and bodies of water, athletes tend to use those. However to meet the specifics of the course, the venue has to be made artificially. There arctually has only ever been one natural river used for the canoe slalom event at the Olympics (1996 Ocoee River, Tennessee USA). It will be a smaller venue but the facility will still be unique and have great accommodations for viewers, with nine planned seating sections to seat the audience. Here is a layout of the facility and the current entrance to the venue.

Poster of the layout of the facility at the front gates & a picture of a security guard on duty at the gates. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

From the pictures it is obvious to see that the construction is far from complete. Like many of the Olympic venues it is expected to be done sometime in 2019. In 2015 there was speculation from the ICF’s vice-president at the time Tony Estanguet, that the would create a temporary slalom venue for Tokyo 2020. The thought process was that this was a more sustainable option for host cities. However it was decided that Tokyo would rather create a permanent facility, attached to Kasai Rinkai Park. It will be used in the future to host other events and attract tourism.

There is already much to do in the Kasai Rinkai Park area, which can make for a great experience before and after races. There is the Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel, named after the elaborate pattern of lights which are turned on at night. It will give you a tremendous view of the Tokyo Bay area and is open from 10am–8pm on weekdays and 10am-9pm on weekends. The park also offers a fabulous barbecue area that allows you to rent out the necessary tools. An aquarium and bird sanctuary are also available to the public and admission prices are 700 yen. The park also resides along a waterfront which many locals choose as a spot to get away from the noisy city to relax.

View of the Arakawakako River and Tokyo Bay from Kasai Rinkai Park. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

Despite there being much more work to be done on the course before completion, it is an intriguing venue that will host one of the many exciting sports for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The canoe slalom Olympians and fans will have an opportunity to visit one of the most relaxing places in Tokyo, while not being to far from any of the big city elements Japan’s capital has to offer. Come 2020, you can expect the Canoe Slalom Course and Kasai Rinkai Park to be packed with spectators from all around the world.

View from the west, showing the ferris wheel in the background. ©Shotaro Honda Moore

A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine. https://www.junkturemagazine.com