Japan picks new design for Olympic stadium after cost estimates soar

Tuesday, Dec 22, 2015

Japan on Tuesday chose a new 2020 Olympic Stadium design, after an earlier version set off a row over a $2.0 billion price tag that would have made it the world's most expensive sports venue.

The country's preparations for the global games suffered a humiliating setback this year when the government pulled the plug on the original stadium plan by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid following spiralling costs and complaints over the design.

Two new construction plans -- both by Japanese architects and with sharply lower cost estimates -- were released last week by the Japan Sport Council, which is overseeing the project.

After deliberations, the JSC chose the slightly cheaper of the two, a joint venture led by renowned architect Kengo Kuma with an estimated cost of approximately 149.0 billion yen ($1.2 billion).

"I think this is a wonderful plan that meets criteria such as basic principles, construction period and cost," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a special cabinet meeting on the design.

The winning plan, which beat out one by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito, is far below the price estimated under the now-ditched design by Hadid. Besides cost, her plan also drew complaints over its design.

Under the new plan construction is to be completed in November 2019, ahead of the January 2020 deadline demanded by the International Olympic Committee.

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


"I am feeling the weight of the awesome responsibility," Kuma told private broadcaster Nippon TV right after the announcement.

The new plan aims to "create Japanese tradition" by using steel frames and wood with a concept of a "stadium of trees and green", according to the JSC.

It will have a height of 49.2 metres (162 feet), lower than the original design of 70 metres, which was criticised as being too high and being a potential eyesore on Tokyo's skyline.

Abe shocked Olympic organisers in July when he pulled the plug on Hadid's futuristic design as soaring costs put it on course to become the world's most expensive sports stadium.

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

This month Tokyo Governor Yoichi Masuzoe, who had openly criticised the initial price tag, agreed that the metropolitan government would shoulder one quarter of the 155 billion yen budget.

The stadium fiasco has pushed back the new venue's completion date, embarrassing Japanese sport officials who have also been forced to find an alternate showpiece site for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which the country is hosting.

Following Tokyo's decision to scrap the design plans, former sports minister Hakubun Shimomura in September said he would step down.

Japan in August promised a new list of venues for the 2019 World Cup after rugby's governing body demanded fresh plans in the wake of the proposed national stadium being scrapped.TOKYO: Japanese architect Kengo Kuma on Tuesday won a competition to design the centrepiece stadium for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, after ballooning costs forced the futuristic original plan to be scrapped.

The winning design submitted by a consortium led by Taisei Corp has a price tag of 149 billion yen (0.83 billion pounds), against an estimated US$2.1 billion for the controversial concept by Zaha Hadid which was abandoned in July.

Kuma is known for blending traditional Japanese style with modern elements, and his design for the New National Stadium incorporates wood and layers of eaves.

"I think the design chosen meets the conditions sought, such as basic concept, construction and cost," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said as he announced the winner.

"I want every effort to be made so the new stadium incorporates the world’s best barrier-free (facilities) and ‘Japanese-ness’, and is a stadium that excites the people of the world and a legacy of which the next generation can be proud."

Another design by architect Toyo Ito and submitted by Takenaka Corp, Shimizu Corp and Obayashi Corp would have cost 149.7 billion yen.

Both designs were simpler than Hadid's idea, which critics derided as reminiscent of a bicycle helmet or drooping raw oyster and out of sync with the neighbourhood.

The winning design - which some critics have likened to a stack of pancakes - will stand 20 metres (22 yards) lower than the scrapped concept. It will incorporate wood - a traditional Japanese building material - into the roofing in an effort to blend with the leafy surrounds.

Construction is scheduled for completion in November 2019, two months ahead of an International Olympic Committee deadline of January 2020. The Olympic Games are slated to start in July.

The stadium will have capacity for 68,000 spectators, which can be raised to 80,000 to host World Cup football finals.

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