The officials in charge of building a new National Stadium for the 2020 Olympics, including sports minister Hakubun Shimomura, failed to develop an organizational structure capable of handling such a complex project, a third-party panel probing the fiasco concluded Thursday.
In a 60-page report submitted to the minister, the six-member panel, led by University of Tokyo professor emeritus Noboru Kashiwagi, said Shimomura, senior bureaucrat Shinichi Yamanaka and Japan Sports Council President Ichiro Kono were ultimately responsible for the scrapping of the costly design proposed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
Hadid’s design, which featured extravagant “keel arches” to form the backbone of the roof, resulted in ballooning costs. Amid the public outcry, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in July that the plan would be scrapped, and the JSC is now selecting architects for a new plan.
Shimomura, upon receiving the panel’s report on Thursday afternoon, told reporters he “will swiftly consider how to take responsibility,” adding he would clarify his position in a news conference after a Cabinet meeting Friday.
Speculation is rife in the domestic media that Shimomura might resign over the stadium issue. But even if he doesn’t quit right away, he might not be reappointed sports minister when Abe reshuffles his Cabinet early next month.
Kono told reporters Thursday he will step down as JSC president and won’t seek reappointment when his term expires at the end of this month. But he remained vague on his responsibility for the stadium fiasco.
The panel, which conducted 30 interviews with people involved in the project, cited three reasons for its failure.
For one, opting to use “a group-oriented decision-making system” in the absence of a project manager delayed key decisions and created confusion, it said.
“Usually, a project (as big as this one) is led by an individual with a powerful mandate,” Kashiwagi said at a news conference at the ministry. “In this project, there was no project manager present.”
Second, top officials failed to create an organizational structure to cope with a complicated project that also required a lot of coordination with overseas architects, the report said.
“Neither the JSC nor the sports ministry had ever experienced such a massive and complex construction project,” the report said. “Yet the organizations didn’t try to hire more technical staffers or ask for help from the construction ministry.”
And third, bad PR led to the distrust of the government and other parties involved, the panel said, noting that the ministry and JSC lacked the awareness that building a stadium requires good communication with — and understanding by — taxpayers.