Cut-price Tokyo stadium to be completed before IOC deadline

TOKYO • The cost of building the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is expected to be about half the initial US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) price tag that sparked a public backlash, according to new proposals revealed yesterday.

The two construction plans released by the Japan Sports Council, which is overseeing the project, showed that the cost would be 149 billion yen (S$1.7 billion) or 149.7 billion yen, both far below the 265 billion yen estimated under the now-ditched design.

"We will work to ensure a stadium that will be loved by all," Kazumi Daito, president of the sports council, said in announcing the plans, which he said would put "athletes first" and also emphasise accessibility for the handicapped, elderly and children.

Under both plans, construction is scheduled to be completed in November 2019, well before the January 2020 deadline demanded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Tokyo is due to host the opening ceremony on July 24 that year.

The sports council has not revealed the names of the architects who have joined a design competition, but local media named them as the renowned Kengo Kuma and Toyo Ito. The winner will be decided by the end of this year.

Toshiaki Endo, minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympics, said on Friday that officials decided to release design plans to "increase transparency".

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shocked Olympic organisers in July when he pulled the plug on the winning design by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid as soaring costs put it on course to become the world's most expensive sports stadium.

The futuristic design had also been criticised by some architects, who said it would be an eyesore.

Japan slashed the cost of the new Olympic stadium by more than 40 per cent, setting a 155 billion yen cap on construction costs.

Earlier this month, Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who had been openly critical of the initial price tag, agreed that the metropolitan government would shoulder a quarter of the resultant capped budget.

The stadium fiasco has pushed back the new venue's completion date, embarrassing Japanese sports officials who have also been forced to find an alternative venue for the 2019 Rugby World Cup matches that Japan will host.

Meanwhile, David Edmonds, chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), a public body responsible for the development and management of the 225ha complex that hosted the 2012 London Olympics, has urged Tokyo to act quickly to develop a vision for the new National Stadium and other Olympic venues that lasts decades beyond the 2020 Games.

"Think early, make decisions knowing that this is going to stick for 20 to 40 years, and try to build a stadium that has a long-term use," he told The Japan Times in a phone interview.

The LLDC was established six months before the 2012 Games to prevent London's Olympic venues from slipping into the same state of weed-strewn disuse that blighted Athens after the 2004 Games.

With less than five years to go until Tokyo lights the 2020 Olympic flame, Edmonds is urging his Japanese counterparts to make full use of their time.

He said: "It would be a really good idea to put the legacy corporation in place not just six months before the Games, but actually from now.

"Work alongside the delivery authority so you can really think through what you're going to use everything for."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2015, with the headline 'Cut-price Tokyo stadium to be completed before IOC deadline'. Print Edition | Subscribe