Japan yesterday chose a new slimmed-down 2020 Olympic Stadium design, after an earlier version set off a row over its US$2 billion price tag that would have made it the world’s most expensive sports venue.
The country’s preparations for the Games suffered a humiliating setback this year, when the government pulled the plug on the original stadium plan by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid following spiraling costs and complaints over the design.
Two new construction plans — both by Japanese architects and with sharply lower cost estimates — were released last week by the Japan Sport Council, which is overseeing the project.
The council chose the slightly cheaper of the two, a joint venture involving renowned architect Kengo Kuma, with an estimated cost of approximately ￥149 billion (US$1.2 billion).
“I think this is a wonderful plan that meets criteria, such as basic principles, construction period and cost,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a special Cabinet meeting on the design.
The winning plan, which beat out one involving Pritzker Architecture Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito, is far below the price estimated under the now-ditched design by Hadid. Besides cost, her plan also drew complaints over aesthetics.
Under the new plan, construction is to be completed in November 2019, ahead of the January 2020 deadline demanded by the International Olympic Committee.
Tokyo is to host the opening ceremony on July 24.
“I am feeling the weight of the awesome responsibility,” Kuma told private broadcaster Nippon TV right after the announcement.
The new plan aims to “create Japanese tradition” by using steel frames and wood following a concept of a “stadium of trees and green,” according to documents submitted to the council.
It is to have a height of 49.2m, shorter than the original design of 70m, which was criticized as too high and for being a potential eyesore on Tokyo’s skyline.
Characteristics for the new plan, which calls for five floors above ground and two below, involve placing greenery on stadium decks to shut out Tokyo’s scorching summer sunshine. Seating capacity is to be about 68,000.
The other proposal, at 54.3m, also featured a traditional Japanese touch in the use of 72 wooden columns, but planned three floors above ground and two below.
Abe shocked Olympic organizers in July when he pulled the plug on Hadid’s futuristic design, as soaring costs put it on course to become the world’s most expensive sports stadium.
Japan demanded the new designs be more than 40 percent cheaper, setting a ￥155 billion cap on construction costs.
The stadium fiasco has pushed back the new venue’s completion date, embarrassing Japanese sport officials, who have also been forced to find an alternate showpiece site for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which the country is hosting.
Following Tokyo’s decision to scrap the design plans, former Japanese minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology Hakubun Shimomura in September said he would step down.
The new stadium is to be built on the site of the one used as the main stadium for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The neighborhood is surrounded by greenery, including parks and Japanese Shinto shrines.
Organizers have also faced another headache after plagiarism allegations scuttled its first logo for the Games and are in the process of selecting a new design after having received more than 14,500 suggestions from the public.
Uncertainty grips next year’s postponed Tokyo Olympic Games: Will there be fans or empty stadiums in 14 months? How will thousands of athletes, staff members and technical officials travel, be housed and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic? And the Tokyo Games are not the only event. China, where COVID-19 was first detected, is to hold three mega-sports events in the year after the Tokyo Olympics are set to close. The World University Games in Chengdu, China, are to open, with up to 8,000 athletes, only 10 days after the Tokyo Games close. Next come the Beijing Winter Olympics beginning on Feb. 4, 2022,
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