Designer of scrapped Olympic stadium says organizers sought copyright in exchange for overdue final payment

Reuters, AP, Staff Report

The architects whose design for the original 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium was scrapped due to ballooning costs say they have rejected a request to give up the copyright to their plans in return for an overdue final payment.

U.K.-based Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) was chosen in an international contest to build the centerpiece stadium, but the much-criticized futuristic design was dropped last year in just one of a series of embarrassments for Tokyo Olympics planners.

A design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma with a price tag of ¥149 billion ($1.27 billion), as opposed to an estimated ¥252 billion for Hadid’s plans, was chosen last month instead.

“We can confirm that we received and rejected a written request . . . to modify our existing contract to allow the transfer of the copyright of the detailed design for the Japan National Stadium, owned by ZHA, in exchange for an overdue final payment,” the company said in a statement.

It said it had been trying to finalize an outstanding payment for “months of work” with the Japan Sport Council (JSC), the group in charge of the stadium, since October. The amount of the payment was not given.

ZHA’s statement said it had also refused to sign another new clause for the contract, in exchange for the payment, requiring her design team to not “provide information or comment on the project.”

The company said it hoped to resolve the disagreement over intellectual property for the stadium design through discussions.

An official at the JSC confirmed Thursday it was discussing the overdue final payment to ZHA, but gave no details about whether it had asked the company to give up its copyright, or what they were discussing.

“We will proceed in discussions correctly so as not to affect the schedule of the construction of the stadium,” the official said.

The design submitted by Hadid, who designed the aquatics center for the 2012 London Olympics, was slammed by critics for failing to harmonize with its surroundings and derided as reminiscent of a bicycle helmet or a drooping raw oyster.

Kuma’s winning design, which some critics have likened to a stack of pancakes, will be 20 meters lower than the original plan and incorporate wood into the roofing in an effort to blend with its leafy downtown surroundings.

After her original design was rejected as too costly, Hadid complained that the new design borrowed heavily from her earlier work.

Japan’s march to the 2020 Summer Olympics, its second hosting of the sports extravaganza, has been beset by woes including the scrapping of its original logo on accusations of plagiarism only months after the stadium design was dropped.

Construction is scheduled for completion in November 2019, two months ahead of an International Olympic Committee deadline.

The new National Stadium was also supposed to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup opening ceremony and some matches, but the delay in construction made for a switch in venue to Yokohama Stadium, which hosted the 2002 soccer World Cup final.