Fri, May 30, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Tokyo gets green light for US$1.6bn Olympic stadium

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese sports bosses on Wednesday gave the green light to a new US$1.6 billion stadium for the 2020 Olympics, all but dashing the hopes of campaigners who say the building and its price tag are too big.

The government-affiliated Japan Sport Council, which is to run the new National Stadium, decided to trim the height of the structure to 70m from the original 75m to appease concerns it would be a blight on the Tokyo skyline.

The basic design of the 80,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof, originally conceived by prize-winning Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and shaped like a bike helmet, was rubber-stamped by the council and a panel of advisers.

Drawn by a group of design houses, it is to be made final on approval from the ministry in charge of sports administration.

The structure is set to be built on the site of the 56-year-old, 54,000-seat National Stadium, which will be dismantled over 15 months beginning in July.

The new stadium is set to be completed in time for the rugby World Cup, which Japan is to host in 2019, a year ahead of the Olympic Games.

Hadid’s design was chosen in an international competition in November 2012. She had previously designed the London Aquatics Centre used in the 2012 Olympic Games.

She also designed the controversial Al-Wakrah Stadium in Qatar, which is to be used in the 2022 World Cup.

The Tokyo stadium is to be built in an area with numerous parks and a grand Shinto shrine, and will tower over most of the structures around it, with building heights historically limited to 15m.

That limit was raised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to 75m in June last year.

Hadid’s design has come under fire from Japanese architects led by Fumihiko Maki, 85, the creative brains behind one of the new towers for the World Trade Center complex in New York.

Criticism grew when Japan’s minister in charge of the Olympics estimated that the stadium would cost about ¥300 billion (US$3 billion), more than double the ¥130 billion that was originally stipulated in the design competition.

The estimated cost has since been reduced to ¥160 billion, including by scaling down the stadium’s floor space.

Critics have scoffed at the sudden price cut and suggest the final bill will be much higher.

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