Grand plans for Tokyo Olympic stadium trimmed amid cost fears
Japan is scaling down the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, following an uproar from some prominent architects who believe that it is too big and expensive.
Sports minister Hakubun Shimomura has told lawmakers the stadium, which has been designed by award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, would cost 300 billion yen (HK$23.8 billion), and that was "too massive a budget".
The 80,000-seat, futuristic-looking stadium had been billed as costing 130 billion yen. The minister's updated estimate includes surrounding construction and infrastructure costs.
"We need to rethink this to scale it down," he said in response to a question from a ruling party lawmaker. "Urban planning must meet people's needs."
The plans for the stadium were approved earlier this year by the city and central governments. Shimomura's remarks signal a policy change.
He did not give specifics on how construction would be trimmed, but stressed that the existing design concept would be kept.
Shimomura also said the stadium would still have all the basic features needed to host the Olympics. It is replacing the 54,000-seat main stadium used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, a recipient of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize, recently criticised the new stadium's size and urged that it be reworked to "a more sustainable stadium".
About 100 experts support his view and question whether it is environmentally responsible and practical.
The site sits in the middle of a downtown Tokyo park within walking distance of shopping malls, high-rise buildings, a Shinto shrine and a famous venue designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964 Olympics.
Zaha Hadid Architects office has said the venue is flexible and can be used for events beyond the Olympics, such as concerts. But it has expressed willingness to talk about design changes.
Construction is scheduled to begin next year.