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Japan scraps controversial Olympic Stadium plans due to high costs

Zaha Hadid's design was to be the main venue of the 2020 Olympic Games

Zaha Hadid Architects

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today announced that plans for Tokyo's Olympic Stadium will be scrapped due to escalating costs. The 80,000-seat stadium, designed by famed British architect Zaha Hadid, was to be the central venue for the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Construction was set to begin this fall.

As The Wall Street Journal reports, the original budget for the venue was ¥130 billion ($1 billion), but it ballooned to as high as ¥300 billion ($2.4 billion), eliciting calls for it to be downsized. Costs were eventually brought down to ¥252 billion, but that wasn't enough to quell the critics. On Friday, Abe announced plans to start over from scratch, adding that Japans' sports and Olympics ministers will now choose a new design. The stadium will not be ready for the Rugby World Cup, though Abe says he's confident that it will be completed in time for the Olympics.

"we will start over from the beginning."

"We decided that we will start over from the beginning," Abe told reporters after meeting with Olympic Committee Chairman and former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori. "We made this decision with the confidence that we will complete the stadium in time for the Olympic Games."

In an email statement, Zaha Hadid Architects said it is "absolutely right" that the costs of the new project be clearly communicated to authorities and the public, though the firm added that that the escalating costs of its proposal were not due to its design. "The real challenge for the stadium has been agreeing an acceptable construction cost against the backdrop of steep annual increases in construction costs in Tokyo and a fixed deadline," the statement reads.

Hadid was awarded the project in late 2012, in a competition that included several Japanese architects. Her design came under heated criticism from the country's leading architects, who said it would dwarf its surroundings in Tokyo, including the 1964 Olympic stadium designed by Kenzo Tange. One Japanese architect described it as "a monumental mistake," comparing it to "a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away." Hadid defended her design in 2014, telling Dezeen: "They don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium."

"The fact that they lost is their problem, they lost the competition," Hadid added. "If they are against the idea of doing a stadium on that site, I don't think they should have entered the competition."

This article has been updated to include a statement from Zaha Hadid Architects.