Tokyo starts construction of main Olympic stadium

Preparations under way at the site of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium, in a photo taken by Kyodo over the weekend. Due to be completed in 2019, the venue is now set to cost $1.85 billion instead of over $2.9 billion.
Preparations under way at the site of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics stadium, in a photo taken by Kyodo over the weekend. Due to be completed in 2019, the venue is now set to cost $1.85 billion instead of over $2.9 billion.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • Construction of the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics officially started yesterday - more than a year after the original blueprints were torn up following public outcry over the skyrocketing costs.

The stadium is due to be completed by the end of November 2019, five months behind schedule.

"I believe, after four years, many athletes will challenge their physical limits at this stadium and empower spectators and the society," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a ceremony to mark the start of the building work.

Japan approved the new stadium plans in September after Mr Abe scrapped the initial design by the late architect Zaha Hadid as costs soared beyond US$2 billion (S$2.9 billion). The 149 billion yen (S$1.85 billion) price tag for architect Kengo Kuma's proposal comes in just under the cap for the contractors led by Taisei Corp.

The new venue is being built on the site of the former national stadium, which was used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Concerns that ballooning costs could hit a staggering US$30 billion - four times the initial estimate and almost triple that for the 2012 London Olympics - have forced organisers to rethink plans for several venues.

Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike announced recently that the host city would build a new aquatic centre with 15,000 seats, which would cost less than the 20,000-seat arena originally planned.

Plans to move the canoeing venue outside Tokyo have been dropped as well.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2016, with the headline 'Tokyo starts construction of main Olympic stadium'. Print Edition | Subscribe