No decision yet on Japan stadium, but original design in lead

Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:11am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - No final decision has been made on Japan's new National Stadium, the centrepiece for the 2020 Summer Olympics, but with an alternate plan judged "unrealistic" there are still no reasons to abandon the original design, an official said on Wednesday.

Construction of the new National Stadium has run into numerous problems, including sky rocketing costs and demolition delays that have prompted speculation it might not be finished in time, as well as feuding over who will pay what for it.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura, who also holds the sports portfolio, hinted earlier this week that he might "consider" an alternative design to the one by architect Zaha Hadid, which has been criticized for its high cost and an ultra-modern design unsuited to the area around it.

The new proposal, by a group headed by Pritzger Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, recommended a simple, doughnut-shaped stadium without a roof to replace Hadid's futuristic design with two huge main arches, which resembles a space ship or, critics say, a bicycle helmet.

But Japanese media reports on Wednesday said a decision had been made to go with Hadid's design, albeit slightly modified -- and that the cost would surge to 250 billion yen ($2 billion), nearly twice the cost cited when it was chosen in an international contest as part of Tokyo's Olympic bid.

An official at Japan's Education Ministry said that a final decision had yet to be made, although he had heard that one was likely by the start of July.

"We'd heard about the other proposal, but it's not realistic and we think it would be hard to do," the official said.

"Unless it's a proposal we can really get behind, cancelling Zaha's design for another one is not something we can do."   Continued...