• Kyodo


Sports minister Hakubun Shimomura on Friday offered to resign over a humiliating false start in preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked him to stay on until a Cabinet reshuffle next month.

In July, Abe scrapped plans to build a costly new stadium — the centerpiece of the tournament — amid a public outcry over ballooning costs.

The issue has “caused concern and trouble to many people,” the education, culture, sports, science and technology minister told a news conference.

He said measures will be put in place to guard against any recurrence, including placing outside experts within the Japan Sports Council, a state-run body overseeing the stadium’s construction, and setting up a council that would strengthen communication between the ministry and the JSC.

Shimomura said he will return half of his ministerial pay for the six months through September.

He also requested that JSC President Ichiro Kono and Shinichi Yamanaka, the ministry’s former top bureaucrat, return one-tenth of their salaries for two months. Yamanaka left office on Aug. 4.

On Thursday, a third-party panel blamed in a report both the ministry and the JSC for failing to set up a proper management system to oversee the construction project. The panel was set up by the ministry to examine how the cost of the new National Stadium spiraled.

Shimomura said Thursday that the report “didn’t mention whether (officials involved) should resign or not.”

“I would like to announce what kind of responsibility I, the vice minister and the JSC president will take on Friday,” he said, referring to Kono and Yamanaka.

Shimomura, a House of Representatives member elected from a constituency in Tokyo, has been known for his close ties with Abe. They are understood to share similar views about the nation’s wartime history.

Abe decided to scrap the stadium envisaged by renowned London-based architect Zaha Hadid and to start from scratch in July in the wake of a public outcry over the expanding construction costs, which nearly doubled to ¥265.1 billion from the initially projected ¥130 billion.

The government decided on Aug. 28 to set a ¥155 billion cap on the cost, and the JSC on Sept. 1 invited submissions for a new plan for the design and construction of the stadium. Selection of the winning design is expected in late December.

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