Image: Zaha Hadid Architects
Nobody wants to host the Olympics. Even those who have been selected to host future games are fearful of its social and economic impacts. On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the country was abandoning its plans for a $2 billion Olympics-Paralympics stadium designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Citing rising construction costs and widespread public criticism, the government has decided to start from scratch on the project.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium was also intended to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and would later serve as Japan’s national stadium. Its design was met with sharp criticism from the get-go, with notable Japanese architects signing a petition against its construction. While some likened the stadium to a bike helmet or toilet seat, the convening architects were primarily concerned that its size was not relative to its surroundings. The stadium was slated to be built in a historic district with a 20-meter (65 foot) height restriction on new buildings. Hadid’s grandiose design measured 70 metres (229 feet) and had a capacity of 80,000 people.
In July of 2014, it was announced that the project would be scaled down from $3 billion to $1.2 billion, with Japanese Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura stating, “Urban planning must meet people’s needs.” However, in the most recent cost assessment, it was determined that the budget would have to be expanded again to just over $2 billion.
“It is not the case that the recently reported cost increases are due to the design, which uses standard materials and techniques well within the capability of Japanese contractors and meets the budget set by the Japan Sports Council,” reads the statement published on the Zaha Hadid Architects website. “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.”
Friday’s decision to scrap Hadid’s design was celebrated by some but disparaged by World Rugby, whose matches will no longer take place in the stadium. In his statement to the press, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, “The Olympics are a party for our people, and they and the athletes, each one of them, are the main players. We need to make it something that they can celebrate.” It’s quite literally back to the drawing board for the planners of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Images: Zaha Hadid Architects