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Japan sets out fresh guidelines for Tokyo’s National Stadium

The Japanese government today (Friday) approved guidelines for Tokyo’s new National Stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games, pledging to develop an athlete-friendly venue as cost-effectively as possible ahead of a targeted completion date of March 2020.

While not including any revised cost estimates or limits, today’s news came after Olympic organisers last month scrapped the chosen design by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) 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.

The guidelines approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (pictured) and other officials today contained no financial details but outlined that management of the stadium would be handed over to a private firm once the Olympics are over. Earlier this week, Abe apologised to the Japanese public over the saga, which has caused embarrassment for a nation that prides itself on its organisational abilities.

“We should make a structure that will emotionally move people all over the world,” Abe said today, according to the Reuters news agency. “Of course, keeping costs down is a priority, and we must make the best, realistic plan we can.”

The plan’s completion date of March 2020 is a year later than originally envisioned, while Japanese media reports state construction is not due to begin until late 2016 at the earliest, also a year behind the original schedule.

Cost estimates will be detailed in another plan to be released later this month or early in September, but officials have said their goal is to develop everything as cheaply as possible, including the installation of a roof covering spectator seating only. The stadium will need to cater for athletics, football and rugby union, with a number of the 80,000 seats being temporary. It is understood that an international competition to select the new architect and contract will be launched later this year, ahead of a decision in January.

ZHA had claimed its warnings to Tokyo 2020 over an uncompetitive selection process for building contractors that would directly lead to steeper costs had gone unheeded, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it will oversee the forthcoming tender for the development of the Tokyo venue.

World Rugby this month gave itself a one-month window to reschedule matches at its 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan 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.