Sat, Sep 26, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Japanese minister tenders resignation

AFP, TOKYO

Japanese Minister of Sports Hakubun Shimomura speaks to reporters at his office in Tokyo yesterday.

Photo: AFP

Japanese Minister of Sports Hakubun Shimomura said yesterday that he had tendered his resignation over abandoned plans for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics’ main stadium, which carried a US$2 billion price tag that angered the public.

Shimomura is to stay in the job until a Cabinet reshuffle expected next month, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accepted the resignation, Shimomura said.

“I offered my resignation to the prime minister over the phone last night,” Shimomura told a news conference.

He will also return six months’ worth of ministerial salary, worth a total of ¥900,000 (US$7,500). Shimomura’s parliamentary salary of ¥1,465,000 per month will be unaffected.

Shimomura’s departure comes after a third-party panel released a report on Thursday that said the minister was responsible for the stadium fiasco.

Abe shocked Olympic organizers in July when he pulled the plug on Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid’s winning design as soaring costs put it on course to become the world’s most-expensive sports stadium.

The futuristic design had also been criticized by some architects, who said it would be an eyesore.

Japan slashed the cost of the new Olympic stadium by more than 40 percent, setting a ¥155 billion cap on construction costs, well below the ¥265 billion estimated for the now-ditched design.

Following Tokyo’s decision to scrap the design plans, Kimito Kubo, a Japanese official heading the stadium construction, stepped down, saying it was for “personal reasons.”

The resignation of the official overseeing stadium construction was widely seen as him taking the blame for the embarrassing row.

The International Olympic Committee has demanded that Japan complete its new national stadium by January 2020, three months earlier than planned. Tokyo is due to host the opening ceremony on July 24 that year.

Local media reported last week that renowned Japanese architects Kengo Kuma and Toyo Ito would take part in a new design competition. Hadid’s firm has said it will not be bidding as it could not find a contractor.

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