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DOME OF CONTENTION

National Stadium plan hit as too grandiose

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

The new National Stadium planned for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics has come under the spotlight due to its huge size and massive costs, and for a design critics say doesn’t fit in with its surroundings.

Following are questions and answers regarding construction of the new stadium, slated to be used as the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics:

Why does the current National Stadium need to be replaced?

It’s old and doesn’t meet the standards set by various sports federations for holding major international sporting events.

The stadium was built in 1958 for the Asian Games and served as the main venue for the 1964 Summer Olympics.

“It’s been more than 50 years since it was constructed and we have made improvements. But the truth is it’s quite difficult to attract big international sporting events at the current venue,” says Yoshitaka Takasaki, a National Stadium section chief at the Japan Sport Council, which is under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The JSC decision to rebuild the stadium is in line with the Sports Basic Plan drawn up in March 2012 by the education and sports ministry, Takasaki said.

The plan, based on the Basic Act on Sport enacted in 2011, calls on the JSC to maintain and enhance the National Stadium so the council can support bids for events such as the Olympics and soccer World Cup.

How did the design for the new complex come about?

The JSC held an international design competition seeking “the world’s greatest stadium.” The 10-member judging committee was chaired by famed architect Tadao Ando.

Among 11 finalists out of 46 entries, the JSC last November selected the sleek, aerodynamic design of British architect and Pritzker Prize winner Zaha Hadid.

“The design was truly radical and represents the vibrancy that sports is all about,” Ando said. “Its impact is what won it.”

The Iraqi-born Hadid, who won the prestigious Pritzker in 2004, designed the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics.

What features will the new facility boast?

The new National Stadium will have 80,000 seats, 26,000 more than the current facility, and some of them will be movable. It will also have a retractable roof.

The complex will be built on a 113,000-sq.-meter site, about 1.6 times bigger than the current site. In addition, total floor space of the stadium, which may include a museum, library and commercial facilities, will be 290,000 sq. meters, or some 5.6 times more than the existing structure.

The current stadium is to be demolished starting next July and the new facility is slated for completion by the end of March 2019.

“It’s a must that the new stadium is built by (that time) to make it ready for the Rugby World Cup” scheduled to be held in September and October that year, Takasaki said.

Many Japanese architects and others say the new facility is too big. What are their gripes?

Pritzker Prize laureate Fumihiko Maki wrote in the August issue of the Japan Institute of Architects Magazine that the 70-meter-high complex will be too big for the roughly 11-hectare site in Jingu Gaien Park, which has been designated by the Tokyo Metro Government for landscape preservation.

It is a “complete mismatch” to construct a huge structure on a modest site, Maki said in an interview with the magazine.

Volunteers prompted by his essay held a symposium in October to discuss possible revisions, and panelists agreed the planned structure won’t be a match for the historic Jingu Gaien area.

Earlier this month, about 100 people led by Maki filed a request with the bodies involved in the project, including the JSC, to ask that the plan be reconsidered and scaled down.

In addition, five architectural organizations, including the Japan Institute of Architects and the Japan Federation of Architects & Building Engineers Associations, submitted a petition shortly afterward to the JSC and other parties to call for a rethink of the plan.

How has the JSC responded to these petitions?

“We are receiving various opinions not only from Mr. Maki and the architects institute but also from the general public through our website,” said Takasaki.

But he said the JSC has not responded to individual petitions, adding the council plans to proceed with construction while resolving various issues that may crop up in light of ordinances and regulations.

How much will the new stadium cost?

Sports and education minister Hakubun Shimomura, who is also in charge of Olympic arrangements, revealed in October that construction of the new stadium could cost up to ¥300 billion — an amount he called “too massive.” He said the government would consider scaling down the project.

The cost for building just the stadium was put at about ¥130 billion in the candidature file submitted to the International Olympic Committee by the Tokyo 2020 bid committee.

Shimomura said earlier this month that he instructed the JSC to study ways to scale down the project. He said “it can’t be helped if the cost exceeds the original budget of ¥130 billion to some extent,” but “not to a large extent.”

Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose told reporters after holding a meeting with Shimomura that the minister revealed that the construction budget would reach ¥148 billion for work on the stadium itself, including razing the current arena, and ¥37.2 billion for work on the surrounding area.

Will the construction plan affect other facilities?

Yes, because the planned site for the new stadium extends over a larger area than the current facility.

The area encompasses the current National Stadium, adjacent Meiji Park, which is owned by the metropolitan government, the Nippon Seinenkan hotel and convention complex, and a street running between the park and the complex.

The JSC has proposed that both the park and Nippon Seinenkan be relocated, according to Takasaki.

According to a Nippon Seinenkan official, the proposed relocation site, some 100 meters to the south, currently hosts tennis courts.

Meiji Park is scheduled to be relocated south of its current location at the site of the Kasumigaoka Apartments. The 10-building public housing complex, built between 1960 and 1966, will face demolition.

The metropolitan government held a briefing for apartment residents in August last year, according to Masanobu Watanabe, a section chief in charge of operating public housing in the urban development bureau.

“We have asked the residents to move to other metropolitan public housing in such places as Shinjuku and neighboring Shibuya Ward,” Watanabe said.

Meanwhile, Takasaki said the JSC is discussing with Shinjuku Ward about removing the street.

The Weekly FYI appears Tuesdays. Readers are encouraged to send ideas, questions and opinions to hodobu@japantimes.co.jp