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The Japanese government has signed off on plans to slash the construction costs for the country’s new national stadium, the centrepiece of the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, by more than a third, from Y265.1bn (GBP£1.35bn) to Y155bn (€1.16bn/$1.28bn).

The stadium will now have a capacity of 68,000 (rather than the 72,000 as orginally planned); making it large enough to host the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games, said lawmakers and officials, who declined to be named because an official agreement has yet to be made.

The government scrapped the original plans due to a public outcry over the cost of the venue.

The process to identify the designers and builders for the new stadium will start next month, with the winners of the tenders due to be announced before the end of this year.

The revised plans do not include air conditioning in spectator areas or a roof, although there will still be covered seats. The 68,000-capacity is 4,000 less than the original proposals, however there will be the option of adding a further 12,000 seats in the future, should Tokyo be successful in a bid for the FIFA World Cup.

“We have in principle limited the functions of the facility to those necessary for competition under the concept of athlete-first, while keeping the level of the facility suitable as a main stadium for Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a meeting of ministers today. “As a result, we have managed to achieve a major cost reduction of more than Y100bn.”

Image: A computer-generated image of Tokyo’s planned new Olympic Stadium, as seen on the 2020 Games’ official website. Courtesy: Tokyo 2020.
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Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium design to go ‘back to the drawing board’

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According to the Guardian Online, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has announced that the controversial plans for the main stadium for the 2020 Olympics – designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid – will be scrapped and started from scratch because of the spiralling costs.

Amid growing public concern about the cost of the new stadium, Abe said the National Stadium would not now be completed in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup; for which the dramatic stadium was due to host the opening match and the final. Abe confirmed to reporters after a meeting with Yoshiro Mori, Chairman of the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee:

The government has come under growing criticism as the estimated cost for the new National Stadium rose to 252bn yen (GBP£1.3bn, USD$2bn).

The PM said he had obtained the consent of Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, and instructed the sports and Olympics ministers to start preparing immediately a process to choose a new plan.World rugby’s governing body hit out at the decision, and said that it would seek urgent clarification of plans for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. A spokesperson confirmed:

World Rugby is extremely disappointed by today’s announcement that the new National Stadium will not be ready to host Rugby World Cup 2019 matches despite repeated assurances to the contrary from the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee and the Japan Sports Council.

The National Stadium was a compelling and important pillar of Japan’s successful bid to host Rugby World Cup 2019, which was awarded to the Japan Rugby Football Union in 2009.

World Rugby is urgently seeking further detailed clarification from the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee and will need to consider the options relating to the impact of today’s announcement.

Jim Heverin, Project Director at Zaha Hadid Architects, said:

Our teams in Japan and the UK have been working hard with the Japan Sports Council to design a new National Stadium that would be ready to host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, the Tokyo 2020 Games and meet the need for a new home for Japanese sport for the next 50 to 100 years. 


It is absolutely right that the benefits and costs of the new National Stadium should be clearly and accurately communicated and understood by the public and decision-makers in Japan and we hope that this is one of the objectives of the review announced by the Prime Minister. 


We have used our experience on major sports and cultural projects, including the hugely successful London 2012 Games and legacy, to design a stadium that can be built cost-effectively and still deliver the flexible and robust National Stadium that the Japan Sports Council requires.


It is not the case that the recently reported cost increases are due to the design, which uses standard materials and techniques well within the capability of Japanese contractors and meets the budget set by the Japan Sports Council. The real challenge for the stadium has been agreeing an acceptable construction cost against the backdrop of steep annual increases in construction costs in Tokyo and a fixed deadline.

Hadid, best known in the UK for the London 2012 Aquatics Centre, won the design contest for the Tokyo stadium in 2012, but faced a barrage of criticism over its appearance. And amid growing international scrutiny of the costs and benefits of hosting a Games – something that recently elected International Olympic Committee President, Thomas Bach, has promised to focus on – and domestic public pressure, Mori will now be forced to look for a more cost-effective solution.

Last year Hadid hit back at two years of complaints, telling Dezeen magazine she was saddened by the attacks, which she claimed were motivated by not wanting a ‘foreigner’ to build in Tokyo.

The affair has echoes of the controversy that surrounded Hadid’s Aquatics Centre in London, where costs soared three-fold to GBP£269m as a result of the ambitious design and certain elements had to be pared back.

Olympic stadiums traditionally have a chequered history due to the difficulties in planning for a future beyond the Games.

The Bird’s Nest in Beijing is rarely used, although it will be pressed into action for the World Athletics championships this summer, while the legacy issues with the venues built for the 2004 Games in Athens have become a symbol for the subsequent wider malaise in the country.

The debate over the future of London’s Olympic Stadium, where total costs have now soared to GBP£701m thanks to an ambitious plan to convert it into a multi-use venue that will become West Ham United’s home ground, has also proved controversial.


Image: An artist’s impression of the National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, designed by Zaha Hadid. Photograph: Japan Sport Council/AFP/Getty Images.


Asia Pacific is on the verge of being the most active region in the world for new sports venue developments, with the Commonwealth Games, Rugby World Cup and both the Summer and Winter Olympics all taking place here in the next 5 years. This September’s Stadia & Arena Asia Pacific 2015 conference and exhibition will duly open up unrivalled opportunities for producers and suppliers to meet with the sector’s leading sports architects, designers and end-users.

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