Gripes over Tokyo stadium overshadow Games euphoria


TOKYO: Just weeks after they rode the wave of euphoria to Olympic victory when Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Games, organizers are being brought back to Earth with a bump.

The eye-catching architectural centerpiece — a futuristic, bike-helmet-shaped stadium — is too big say detractors. What’s more, others add, it’s too expensive.

“A huge building is not always loved by people… and after the Olympics are over, many people will be forced to see it,” said Fumihiko Maki, an award-winning Japanese architect responsible for one of the new towers for the World Trade Center complex in New York.

The proposed stadium, designed by London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is intended to occupy the spot in west Tokyo of the present national stadium, an area with numerous parks and a large Shinto shrine.

Rising to about 70 meters (230 feet), the 80,000-seat facility would tower over most of the structures around it in a part of the densely-packed city that has historically restricted the height of buildings to 15 metres or less.

That would make it visible from all over the west of Tokyo, including from the immaculately-kept National Shinjuku Gyoen Park, a green lung tucked underneath the skyscrapers of Shinjuku.

“It’s important that people don’t have to see it if they don’t want to,” said Maki. “If there is no event going on inside the stadium, it is just an enormous object.”

The 85-year-old has pedigree in Olympic projects; he was one of the architects in the run-up to the 1964 Games, Japan’s coming out party as a modern, industrial nation.

“When we built the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (in 1954) just next to the planned new stadium, there were strict regulations to protect the landscape there,” said Maki, referring to the building for which he won the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

The comments by Maki came after Japan’s minister in charge of the Olympics said last month the estimated cost for the construction of the stadium is now about 300 billion yen ($3 billion), more than double the 130 billion yen that was originally stipulated in the design competition.



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