Main Olympic stadium’s extras to be trimmed but not its size: minister

Kyodo, AP

The government will stick with the original plan to build an 80,000-seat stadium to serve as the primary venue for the 2020 Summer Olympics but may have to scale back the total outlay, Olympics minister Hakubun Shimomura said Friday.

“The direction in which we will go is to consider downsizing the projected facilities surrounding the stadium, such as elevated entries, while preserving the projected scale to give it the capacity to handle 80,000 spectators,” Shimomura told the press.

Shimomura told the Diet on Wednesday that the New National Stadium designed by award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid would cost ¥300 billion, and that was “too massive a budget.”

The futuristic-looking stadium has been billed as costing ¥130 billion. Shimomura’s updated estimate includes surrounding construction and infrastructure costs.

“We need to rethink this to scale it down,” he said in response to a question from a Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker. “Urban planning must meet people’s needs.”

The plans for the stadium were approved earlier this year by the metropolitan and central governments. Shimomura’s remarks signaled a policy change.

He did not give specifics on how construction will be trimmed, but he stressed that the design concept will be kept.

He also said it will still have all the basic features needed to host the Olympics. It is replacing the smaller 54,000-seat main stadium used in the 1964 Olympics.

Fumihiko Maki, a recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, recently criticized the new stadium’s size and urged that it be reworked to “a more sustainable stadium.”

About 100 experts, including other architects, support his view and question whether the new stadium is environmentally responsible and practical.

The site sits in the middle of a central Tokyo park within walking distance of shopping malls, high-rise buildings, a Shinto shrine and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Olympics.

The Zaha Hadid Architects office has said the venue is flexible and can be used for events beyond the Olympics, such as concerts. But it has expressed willingness to talk about design changes. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.