Olympics: Japan to scrap plans for $2.8 billion National Stadium as costs soar

An artist's impression of the new National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
An artist's impression of the new National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid. PHOTO: AFP/ JAPAN SPORT COUNCIL

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday the scrapping of a plan for a controversial national stadium, the centrepiece of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, after sky-rocketing costs sparked public outrage.

Anger over the stadium, the estimated cost of which had climbed to US$2.1 billion (S$2.8 billion), almost twice its expected cost when Tokyo won the bid for the Summer Games in 2013, had become a liability for Abe as he pushes unpopular defence bills through parliament.

Support for 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," Abe told reporters after meeting Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo and Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.

Referring to the furore over the cost, Abe said: "The Olympics are a party for our people, and they and the athletes, each one of them, are the main players. We need to make it something that they can celebrate."

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 8 km of the Olympic village.