Abe scraps Olympic stadium amid cost row

The planned construction site for the new Olympic stadium in Tokyo.
The planned construction site for the new Olympic stadium in Tokyo. PHOTO: REUTERS/KYODO

TOKYO • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced yesterday the scrapping of a plan for a controversial national stadium, the centrepiece of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, after skyrocketing costs sparked public outrage.

Anger over the stadium, the estimated cost of which had climbed to US$2.1 billion (S$2.9 billion) - almost twice its expected cost when Tokyo won the bid for the Summer Olympic Games in 2013 - has become a liability for Mr Abe as he pushes unpopular defence Bills through Parliament.

The new National Stadium was also meant to have been the centrepiece of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Support for Mr Abe, who returned to office in 2012 pledging to bolster defences and reboot the economy, has slipped to about 40 per cent on voter doubts about the defence legislation. News about the stadium has fed into that discontent.

"We are scrapping our plans for the stadium, and starting from zero," Mr Abe told reporters after meeting Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo and Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.

Tokyo won the Olympics on a reputation for getting things done, but immediately ran into problems with costs and a roll-back of some promises, such as keeping most sports venues within 8km of the Olympic village.

The stadium, designed by British-based architect Zaha Hadid and likened to a bicycle helmet, has been criticised as grandiose and unsuited to the site, where a stadium built for the 1964 Olympics stood until it was demolished recently.

Mr Abe said that new arrangements would have to be made as soon as possible. But he made no mention of costs and whether this meant another competition for a design, or if another design from a 2012 competition would be used.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2015, with the headline 'Abe scraps Olympic stadium amid cost row'. Print Edition | Subscribe