Sat, Aug 15, 2015 - Page 18 News List

Japan posts stadium plans

Reuters, TOKYO

Japan yesterday approved guidelines for its new Olympic stadium, vowing to build an “athletes first” stadium as cheaply as possible and complete it by March 2020, a year later than planned, but did not include any cost estimates or limits.

Japan scrapped its original plan for the new national stadium last month in the face of widespread outrage after costs ballooned to US$2.1 billion, nearly twice original estimates — an unusual move for an Olympic host city this late in the process.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) signed off on the decision for the stadium, centerpiece of the 2020 Summer Olympics, but it has also said it will be part of the new stadium tender to make sure things stay on track.

The guidelines, to be approved by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other officials, will emphasize cost-cutting measures such as keeping a number of seats temporary, media reports said.

Management of the stadium is likely to be taken over by a private firm after the Olympics.

Construction will not begin until at least the end of next year and possibly even later, the reports added.

Construction was originally set to begin at the end of this year and be finished in March 2019.

Cost estimates will be set in a later plan to be released later this month or early next month, but officials have said their aim is to do everything as cheaply as possible, including having a roof over spectator seats only.

The stadium is to be built to host rugby, athletics and soccer, leaving Japan with the ability to bid for World Cup soccer in the future, the reports said.

The required 80,000-seat capacity will be met by using temporary seats if needed to pare costs still more.

An international competition is to be held to choose a new design later this year, with a decision due on both design and contractors in January next year.

Japanese officials have acknowledged the original design for the stadium by UK-based Zaha Hadid Architects might have helped them win the Olympics, but the futuristic plan — likened to a bicycle helmet — drew fire for its grandiose size and what critics said was a lack of fit with its site.

Japan pinned blame for the ballooning price tag on the stadium design, but the architects countered that construction costs have been soaring in Tokyo, that they had made changes several times to bring costs down and that Japan’s decision to scrap the plans came without any warning.

Tokyo has already paid about ¥6.2 billion (US$49.84 million) to Hadid, other architects and construction firms, prompting Abe to apologize on Monday for wasting tax money.

Preparations for the Olympics, Tokyo’s second time to host the sports extravaganza, have run into hurdles on a number of fronts, including ballooning overall costs and rolling back promises of having most venues within 8km of the Olympic Village.

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