Japan architect defends stadium plan as anger grows

Thu Jul 16, 2015 6:25am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - The architect who oversaw the selection of plans for Japan's new Olympic stadium defended the controversial design on Thursday, saying ballooning costs were not his fault even as the government appeared poised to consider cost-cutting changes.

Last month's announcement that costs for the new National Stadium had surged to $2.1 billion, nearly double original estimates, set off a firestorm among the public, skeptical about spending so much when the country is still recovering from the 2011 disasters that left nearly 20,000 dead.

The anger over the stadium designed by U.K.-based architect Zaha Hadid has also become a headache for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his support ratings already battered by efforts to pass widely opposed security laws, making officials eager to find ways to pacify the public.

Tadao Ando, the architect who headed a committee that chose Hadid's design in a 2012 competition, said he wanted the design - compared by critics to a spaceship and bicycle helmet - to stay, and that the soaring costs, which rose to 252 billion yen ($2.03 billion), was not the committee's fault.

"Just like all of you, I want to ask, why does it cost 252 billion yen? Aren't there ways of bringing this down?" Ando told a packed news conference in Tokyo.

"As a citizen of this country, I think that surely something can be done."

Government officials have begun searching for ways to cut costs, media reports say, including changing the design or possibly even opting for a new one. But others argue that doing so would delay the stadium's completion and damage Japan's global reputation.

"While listening to the voices of the people, I want to push forward with preparations to make the Olympics a success," Abe told reporters.   Continued...

Japanese award-winning architect Tadao Ando attends a news conference in Tokyo, July 16, 2015.  REUTERS/Issei Kato