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Japan non-committal on IOC delivery demand for Tokyo’s National Stadium

Japan’s Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo has said at he cannot guarantee that organisers of Tokyo’s Olympic Games will be able to meet the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) demand that the city’s new National Stadium is delivered by January 2020.

Endo, along with Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori, met today (Tuesday) with IOC vice-president John Coates (pictured), the head of the Coordination Commission for the 2020 Games. Japanese news agency Kyodo News said Coates asked Endo to have the stadium ready by January 2020 so the organising committee would have enough time to stage test events before the Games open in August.

However, Endo said: “It was going to be April on a very tight schedule. We can ask the contractors to push it, but we have no idea if it's doable. Securing the materials, the workers and technicians is difficult so we can't shorten the schedule easily.”

The Japanese government this month approved guidelines for the new National Stadium, pledging to develop an athlete-friendly venue as cost-effectively as possible. While not including any revised cost estimates or limits, the news came after Olympic organisers last month scrapped the chosen design by Zaha Hadid Architects amid concerns over spiralling costs for the venue that was intended to serve as the centrepiece for both the 2020 summer Games and 2019 Rugby World Cup.

The original plans were shelved despite the Japan Sports Council committing to a design with a price tag of Y252bn (€1.84bn/$2.03bn). If the project had gone ahead, this would have made Tokyo’s new National Stadium the most expensive sports venue of all time. Kyodo said that Coates today also told local organisers that the stadium does not need a minimum capacity of 80,000 seats – the figure that has previously been targeted.

The government is expected to come up with a new plan possibly by the end of this month, detailing the stadium's costs and construction schedule. “I think we'll be able to find a way to keep it under Y200bn,” Endo said of the budget.

World Rugby this month gave itself a one-month window to reschedule matches at its 2019 Rugby World Cup after the National Stadium project was taken back to the drawing board. The decision left World Rugby without a venue for its World Cup final and a number of matches earlier in the tournament. Yokohama’s International Stadium – venue for the 2002 Fifa World Cup final, has a capacity of 72,000 and is considered the most likely alternative host of the 2019 World Cup’s showpiece games.