The head of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee said Friday he “hated” the distinctive design of the new National Stadium, hours before Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced he was scrapping those blueprints and starting over from scratch.

“It’s better to be redesigned. I didn’t like that style from the beginning,” Yoshiro Mori, a former prime minister, said of the design by London-based architect Zaha Hadid. He was referring to the characteristic structure of the two gigantic arches supporting the curved roof.

“Honestly, I didn’t like the design. It looks like a raw oyster,” he added.

Friday’s curt comments, made on a TV program in the early afternoon, came before Abe announced that the design of the main Olympics venue will be reviewed from the ground up amid deteriorating public opinion about its bloated price tag of ¥252 billion. Criticism of the stadium plan was even damaging the approval rating of his administration.

Mori drew fire in February 2014 after he criticized Japanese figure skater Mao Asada’s performance in the women’s short program at the Sochi Olympics. Just weeks after he became the president of the 2020 Olympic organizing committee, he commented that Asada had a habit of “always falling at the most critical time.”

He was known for contentious comments even while he was prime minister.

Before Abe decided to ditch it, a key issue that haunted Tokyo and the central governments was whether the stadium under Hadid’s design could be completed in time to host the Rugby World Cup in fall 2019.

“I’m sorry for rugby fans and players, but you can’t have matches at the stadium if it isn’t ready. If (the new National Stadium isn’t completed) on time, we’re just going to have to do it at some other stadium,” the former prime minister said.

Mori blamed the poor budget planning and related issues surrounding the controversial stadium design on the education and sports ministry.


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