Olympics: Tokyo Games chief apologises for stadium plan scrapping

Former Japanese prime minister and Tokyo 2020 Olympics organising committee president Yoshiro Mori speaks with the media in Kuala Lumpur on July 29, 2015. PHOTO: AFP
An artist's impression of the new National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, that was scrapped over ballooning costs. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS) - Tokyo 2020 Games chief Yoshiro Mori on Wednesday formally apologised to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after plans for the new Olympic stadium were scrapped earlier this month over ballooning costs.

The 78-year-old, who presented a progress report to the IOC executive board, said the Olympic body had officially accepted Japan's review of stadium plans and offered its support as organisers now face a race against time to get it ready for the Games.

"I extended my sincere apologies that we had to change the plan," he told reporters. "(IOC) President Thomas Bach gave us his support and confidence.

"Any plan has to have room for improvement and it is natural to improve the plan and the IOC will give its full support for the improvement."

Costs for the New National Stadium, set to be the centrepiece of the Olympics in Tokyo, soared to US$2.1 billion (S$2.9 billion), nearly twice original estimates, sparking widespread outrage that prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to decide nearly two weeks ago to abandon the initial design.

The decision to abandon it also meant that key matches in the 2019 rugby World Cup are without a home, damaging Japan's reputation for organisational prowess, especially in the sporting world.

"Bach has expectations that we can improve the plan. He gave us encouragement to work hard to complete the stadium by Games time. He said this cannot be left to the Japanese government alone," Mori, a former prime minister, said.

While Japan wants a cheaper stadium, construction material costs have gone up since their bid won the IOC vote in 2013, Tokyo 2020 chief executive officer Toshiro Muto told reporters.

"There is a surge in prices for various construction material. There is higher cost and we will focus on cost reduction," he said. "There will be an inflation (of prices) but we will make sure we minimise that.

"For us the priority is to have it completed before the Olympics. We are sure and confident the stadium will be completed on time."

On Tuesday, the firm of architects whose design was scrapped said the ballooning costs were due partly to an uncompetitive selection of contractors and that warnings about this were ignored by Japan.

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