Government drops plan to build retractable roof on Olympic stadium as costs soar

Kyodo

The Japanese government intends to give up on putting a retractable roof on the new stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as it is reviewing the main venue’s building plan after scrapping the earlier plan due to soaring costs, sources said Tuesday.

Without the retractable roof, total construction costs will be held down and it will also allow the stadium to be completed by spring 2020, the deadline set by the government, the sources said.

Japan will meanwhile keep the capacity at 80,000 seats in accordance with the request from the Japan Football Association, which hopes to host the Soccer World Cup in the future, they said.

The retractable roof had been considered for nonsports events such as concerts, but the government has decided to give up the plan, given the high maintenance costs and as adding the feature would make the construction period longer, the sources said.

The government aims to lay out costs and functions for the new National Stadium by this fall and choose a new design and builder through an international competition in a bid to complete the stadium by spring 2020.

The revision of the plan came after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced earlier this month an overhaul of the original construction plan for the main stadium due to ballooning costs.

Critics have said the initial design conceived by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, featuring two gigantic arches over the stadium and looking like a bicycle helmet, caused the stadium’s projected construction costs to nearly double from the initially projected ¥130 billion.

But Hadid’s firm dismissed the criticism, saying the building costs soared due to increasing construction demand in Tokyo, a limited labor supply and the yen’s significant drop in value that raised the price of imported raw materials.

The architect’s office also said Tuesday it has offered support for a review of the venue building plan in a letter sent to Abe.

“Starting the design process again does not tackle any of the fundamental issues that have led to an increased estimate in budget for the National Stadium, which could in fact become even more problematic due to the significant delay in starting building,” Zaha Hadid Architects said in a statement.

Amid criticism over the way the government has handled the project to build the main stadium for the 2020 Games, the sports ministry said Tuesday a senior official in charge of construction of the new national stadium will quit and be replaced next week.

The sports ministry said Kimito Kubo, 58, will resign as director general of the Sports and Youth Bureau for personal reasons.