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With nobody in the seats, it can be plainly seen that the seats in the Olympic track and field stadium in Tokyo are of four different colors (maroon, light green, dark green, and white) in no discernible pattern.

An American track athlete with empty stadium seats behind him

Is there a reason the seats are these colors? Is there actually some pattern or logic to how they are arranged? If not, why not just use seats that are all one color, or put them in some sort of tidy pattern, such as a row of maroon seats, a row of white seats, etc?

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While most US stadiums have single colored seats, the multicolor effect is used in many stadiums around the world. The New Orleans Superdome has multicolored seats, but the overall effect is very muted rather than vibrant. Probably there are different reasons in different places, but breaking up empty seats for television does come in handy. It also means that if you have some color fade and have to replace a seat, you don't get blotchy effects from mismatched replacements.

Slate magazine had a piece on the Tokyo stadium and Kengo Kuma's design. He doesn't say that it's the reason for the pattern, but does acknowledge that it looks good without people in the seats.

The stadium design, in which the 60,000 seats are colored in five different earth tones to create a forest-pattern mosaic, makes the stadium look occupied and alive even without spectators. “The mosaic design is a natural solution to the problem of no spectators at the Olympics,” Kuma told me during a recent interview. “By accident, the idea is perfectly fitting the situation with COVID.”

A Stephen Wade AP article in 2019 says that there is actually a pattern to the arrangement.

The stadium seating rises in a steep gradient from the field level and the nine-lane track, getting steeper the higher it goes. The colors of the seats also get lighter the higher up you go with more brown seats near the bottom — the earth — and more green, gray and white near the top.

“Because of the gradient, it creates an atmosphere where people can feel close,” said Takeo Takahashi, another Japan Sport Council spokesman.

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