TOKYO, Japan (Reuters) - When the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium opens for the first time in August it will be a landmark moment for rugby in Japan as well as for the regions ravaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said on Tuesday.
The newly built stadium, located in Iwate Prefecture, will host two games at next year’s Rugby World Cup and holds huge significance for Japanese rugby.
Less than three months after the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami killed over 15,000 people, the local Kamaishi Seawaves Rugby Football Club were encouraged to return to the area for the start of the season.
The Seawaves looked to provide a sense of normality as the people of Iwate Prefecture tried to rebuild their lives.
Their first opponents after the earthquake were Yamaha Jubilo and, seven years later, they will once again provide the opposition in a exhibition game to mark the opening for the venue on Aug. 19.
“The stadium stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of Kamaishi,” Beaumont said in a statement released by Japan 2019 organisers after details of the event were finalised.
“It will act as a beacon of hope and inspiration for generations to come, providing an important legacy for the future of this region of Japan that has rugby at its heart.”
Seawaves General Manager Yoshihiko Sakuraba said the team were proud to be playing the first match at the stadium.
“This stadium remembers the past, honours the present and looks forward to the future,” he said.
“The game on August 19 will be a great step forward in the ongoing recovery of Kamaishi and the lead up to our city hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019.”
Kamaishi is the only stadium purpose built for the Rugby World Cup and will host a match between Fiji and Uruguay as well as a game between two Pool B teams yet to qualify.
Editing by Peter Rutherford