TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s sports minister promised on Tuesday that Tokyo’s new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, will be completed on time and blamed a “lack of clear responsibility” for the structure’s raft of woes.
The new National Stadium has been hit by numerous problems, including skyrocketing costs and demolition delays that led to media speculation it might not be finished in time, prompting International Olympics Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach to say on Monday he wanted Japan to settle plans for it soon.
Hakubun Shimomura, who is also education minister, told reporters that a lack of clearly delineated overall responsibility may be partly to blame. The stadium is due to be used for the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
“For example, there were reports that completion might be delayed in April. If we’d gotten those reports earlier I believe we might have been able to make a more flexible response,” he said, without giving further details.
“We will not lose international trust,” he added. “There are still four more years. We will deal with this and make sure it’s on time.”
An official at the Japan Sports Council, which is in charge of the stadium, agreed that it will be completed in time. “We are making every effort to that end,” he added.
Japan in May established a new cabinet post for a minister who will be in charge of preparing for the Games, with the name of the new minister expected to be announced later this month.
Tokyo’s Olympic bid promised a “compact Olympics,” with a majority of venues within 8 km of the Olympic Village, but sharply rising construction and labour costs have forced a widespread revamping of its venue plans to make more use of existing facilities that are often farther away.
At an IOC meeting in Lausanne that ended on Monday, another eight venues were approved. Changes include the site for fencing, wresting and taekwondo, which will be at a site roughly 40 km from downtown Tokyo, and sailing, which will be about the same distance away at a venue used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
But much of the controversy has centred around the stadium designed by Zaha Hadid, the architect behind the aquatics centre for the 2012 London Games, with critics saying from the start that its futuristic design was too large for its intended site.
Japan has since scrapped the planned retractable roof and made around 35 percent of the seats at the 80,000 seat stadium temporary ones in additional cost-cutting measures.
In May, Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe lashed out at being asked to foot $400 million of the stadium cost, calling the cost “ridiculous.” He and Shimomura have since remained at apparent odds over the issue.
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty