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Controversies over the design and cost of Olympic infrastructure is yet another reason why fewer and fewer cities are looking to host the global games.
A revised plan for Japan’s new stadium for the 2020 Olympics is still so wasteful and large for the site that it is a “sin” – one that also destroys the power of the original design, said a Tokyo architect running a petition drive against the structure.
The spaceship-like stadium was designed by Zaha Hadid, who also designed the aquatics center for the 2012 London Olympics, but the plans came under fire soon after Tokyo won the Games last year for ballooning cost estimates and a lack of harmony with the surrounding cityscape.
This week, the Japan Sports Council released a new design proposal reducing the size of the stadium by more than 20 percent and cutting costs from some 300 billion yen ($2.95 billion), more than twice the original bid estimate, to roughly 162 billion yen.
But Edward Suzuki, a Tokyo-based architect, says the new proposal is still flawed, especially given the number of trees that will have to be cut in one of the city’s rare green areas.
“I’ve never felt so emotional about any kind of architecture up until now,” Suzuki told Reuters on Friday, a day before an event to bid the current National Stadium farewell ahead of its July demolition.
“But it’s happening in my garden, in our garden … We just can’t let it happen. It’s a sin, it’s a crime.”
The National Stadium was built for Tokyo’s first Summer Olympics, in 1964. The new stadium, set to have 80,000 seats – up from 54,000 at present – will be completed in time for the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
The new proposal shrinks the overall space of the stadium to about 222,600 square meters, including competitive spaces such as the pitch, from 290,000 square meters, mainly by downsizing areas used for things like media facilities and display rooms.
The height of the stadium at its tallest point will be cut from 75 meters to 70 meters, but Suzuki said this is still too tall for the surrounding area, which includes a long avenue of trees and the Meiji Shrine, a noted tourist attraction.
“It’s so overpowering, it’s not a human scale. It’s going to replace all the trees that had once been there,” Suzuki said. “It was a park. Now it’s just going to be a very man-made object that is not really beautiful to look at.”
His petition drive has gained 1,400 signatures in three weeks – 800 of them in the last three days.
Suzuki argues that the existing stadium should be remodeled to expand seating capacity. Extensions could be removed once the Games are over and the stadium demolished then.
The Japan Sport Council says the stadium needs a roof so it can be used for concerts after the Games, though critics say this may not be practical given Japan’s falling population.
“We’re paying our taxes and spending our savings for the next generation,” Suzuki said. “I’m sure they’re going to be stuck with this debt and this non-sustainable facility, they’re going to be blaming us when we are in our graves.”
The Japan Sport Council was not available for comment.
To add insult to injury, the new proposal would destroy the flowing lines and dynamism of Hadid’s original.
“I’m sure Hadid’s office was involved, but I’m sure Zaha Hadid is not happy with the outcome,” he added. “It’s not her design anymore, it’s sort of a bad imitation of her original.”
Writing by Elaine Lies; editing by Amlan Chakraborty.
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