Olympics: New Japan stadium to open three months before Olympics

Olympics: New Japan stadium to open three months before Olympics
A rendering model of the now-cancelled stadium for 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Japan's new national stadium will only be completed three months before the start of Tokyo's 2020 Olympics because of a government decision to order a new design, a top official said Saturday.

Tokyo's chief Olympic organiser, former prime minister Yoshiro Mori, publicly apologised to an International Olympic Committee meeting for the change. But the IOC supported the decision to scrap the old design because of skyrocketing building costs.

IOC vice president John Coates, head of a commission monitoring Tokyo's preparations, said the stadium "will only be delivered in April 2020". It is due to host the opening ceremony on July 24 that year.

Normally Olympic venues, particularly of this importance, are handed over at least six months before a Games start.

The Japanese government last month cancelled the construction of a design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid because the cost had risen above US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion).

It will launch a new tender and hopes to have a new design before the end of 2015.

Coates said the IOC was now involved in writing the tender to make sure specifications maintained international standards for athletes and spectators.

He said broadcasters and organisers of the opening ceremony would have to be guaranteed access before the handover.

The Tokyo organisers have already taken US$1.7 billion off the total Games cost by changing other venues. They hope to save several hundred million dollars more with a cheaper stadium.

Despite the savings Tokyo organising committee chief executive Toshiro Muto said the financial situation remains "very tough." Committee president Mori told IOC members "I apologise for changing the design". But he received backing from IOC president Thomas Bach.

"We highly respect this gesture but ... we do not think there is an apology needed for a change of circumstances which is beyond your control.

"We want to tell you that the IOC is standing by your side," Bach said.

The cost of earthquake-proof buildings and the higher cost of imported materials pushed up the price of the Hadid design causing a public backlash in Japan.

Coates said studies had estimated that construction costs in Tokyo were up to four times higher than in the United States and Europe.

Hadid warned in a statement released last week that scrapping her design meant the new stadium might not be ready on time and risked being of a "lower quality" that would quickly need renovation.

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