Too Late to Change Design of Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, Abe Says

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tokyo’s Olympic stadium couldn’t be redesigned without missing a deadline for the first international events to be held there.

Abe shared the findings of a government review in parliament Friday in response to a question about scaling back the project. The prime minister said his advisers determined that a new design couldn’t be selected and built before the stadium hosts matches at the Rugby World Cup in 2019.

“If we held an international competition, selected a new design and did the structural designs, there wouldn’t be enough time,” Abe said. “There is a strong possibility it wouldn’t be ready in time for the 2020 Olympics either.”

Abe has championed Tokyo’s Olympic bid as he seeks ways to end stagnation in the world’s third-largest economy. Public enthusiasm for hosting the Games -- Japan’s first since 1964 -- has been clouded by disputes over the cost of the centerpiece stadium designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

The estimated cost of the stadium has risen to $250 billion yen ($2 billion) -- 90 billion yen more than originally estimated, the Yomiuri newspaper said.

Polls have shown growing public concern over the rising cost of the venue as Japan tries to rein in the world’s largest debt burden. A survey in the Yomiuri on Monday showed 81 percent of respondents said the design should be changed.

Abe said the timeline was necessary in part because any new architects must be selected through an international bid process, something Tokyo had promised in its proposal to the International Olympic Committee.

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