Nod for Olympic stadium as Tokyo bids to slash costs

TOKYO • The Japanese government has approved plans for the building of the main stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics at a cost of almost US$1.5 billion (S$1.92 billion).

Construction is scheduled to begin in December, more than a year after the original blueprints were torn up on the orders of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid public anger over skyrocketing costs.

The showcase Olympic stadium is set to be completed by the end of November 2019, said the Japan Sport Council yesterday - five months behind schedule, the delays already having forced the 2019 Rugby World Cup to switch venues for the final match.

The US$1.47 billion price tag for architect Kengo Kuma's design comes in just under the US$1.55 billion cap for the contractors, led by construction giant Taisei.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, who has been eager to further slash costs for the city's second Olympics, promised to keep a close eye on progress, with the preparations already dogged by controversy.

"Given we are sharing the (financial) burden, I will raise my voice when necessary to ensure the stadium is utilised by the citizens of Tokyo," she said yesterday after a meeting at Mr Abe's office.

Japanese Olympic officials have come under fire after a series of embarrassing gaffes since beating Madrid and Istanbul in the bidding race three years ago.

Mr Abe tore up initial plans for the Olympic stadium, designed by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, as costs soared beyond US$2 billion. The organisers then had to scrap the original Games logo after accusations of plagiarism from a theatre in Belgium.

Most alarmingly, French prosecutors launched an investigation into US$2 million in payments they suspect were made to help Tokyo secure the Games.

Japanese Olympic officials have strenuously denied any wrongdoing. But the metropolitan government recently appointed a group of academics and business leaders to study ways to cut soaring costs and reduce Tokyo taxpayers' burden.

The panel warned in a report published on Thursday that the Games could end up costing more than US$30 billion, urging Olympic leaders to ditch plans to build new venues and use existing ones.

Ms Koike agreed to examine proposals to overhaul the swimming, volleyball and kayaking facilities, currently estimated at some US$1.5 billion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2016, with the headline 'Nod for Olympic stadium as Tokyo bids to slash costs'. Print Edition | Subscribe