Japan to scrap Olympic stadium plans, start over

Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:26am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday the scrapping of a plan for a controversial national stadium, the centerpiece of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, after sky-rocketing costs sparked public outrage.

Anger over the stadium, the estimated cost of which had climbed to $2.1 billion, almost twice its expected cost when Tokyo won the bid for the Summer Games in 2013, had become a liability for Abe as he pushes unpopular defense bills through parliament.

The new National Stadium was also meant to have been the centerpiece of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Support for Abe, who returned to office in 2012 pledging to bolster defenses and reboot the economy, has slipped to about 40 percent on voter doubts about the defense legislation. News about the stadium has fed into that discontent.

"We are scrapping our plans for the stadium, and starting from zero," Abe told reporters after meeting Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo and Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura.

Referring to the furore over the cost, Abe said: "The Olympics are a party for our people, and they and the athletes, each one of them, are the main players. We need to make it something that they can celebrate."

Tokyo won the Olympics on a reputation for getting things done, but immediately ran into problems with costs and a roll back of some promises, such as keeping most sports venues within 8 km (5 miles) of the Olympic village.

The stadium, designed by British-based architect Zaha Hadid and likened to a bicycle helmet, has been criticized as expensive, grandiose and unsuited to the site, where a stadium built for Tokyo's 1964 Olympics stood until it was demolished recently.   Continued...