Facing reporters at the Japan National Press Club, Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, head of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games’ organizing committee, had much to say during a Wednesday news conference.
For approximately 90 minutes, Mori continually referenced the soaring construction costs of the Olympic facilities, while at the same time denying he was responsible for the now-rejected National Stadium project.
“Let me say this first. I have been really annoyed by this issue,” Mori said.
The former leader was initially believed to have pushed for the original costly design. But during the news conference, Mori emphasized that his committee ultimately has no say in the stadium’s design.
“I have nothing to do with (the design issue). Whatever (stadium) might be built, my committee would not have anything to do with it,” Mori said.
The estimated costs of the National Stadium had bulged to a staggering ¥252 billion from the original ¥130 billion price tag — without much public explanation. This drew flak from voters and prompted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s pledge last week to redesign the stadium from scratch.
The estimated ¥252 billion ($2 billion) price tag far exceeds the $455 million spent on Beijing’s “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Olympics, as well as the approximately $680 million stadium for the 2012 London Games.
Still, Mori raised hackles over the public’s criticism of the exorbitant construction costs.
“(People say) the (¥252 billion) stadium is too expensive. But I wonder if it makes sense” given that the many other facilities to be built will in total cost far more than the main stadium, Mori argued.
Raising funds from private-sector sponsors, Mori’s committee plans to build various Olympic facilities that will cost more than ¥300 billion, he said.
Also, Mori noted, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government plans to spend more for the construction of other facilities than the central government, which will only build the main stadium.
Asked who should shoulder the blame for the failed original concept, Mori said that no one should be singled out, but rather, the whole government should be held responsible.
The education ministry and Japan Sport Council, a special organization affiliated with the ministry, had been in charge of estimating construction costs.
Mori maintained that neither of the two entities were able to manage such a large-scale project, and that the central government had mistakenly tasked them with the job.