Giving in to public pressure over spiraling costs, the Japanese government has cancelled plans to build a Zaha Hadid-designed centerpiece stadium for the 2020 Olympics. With budgets ballooning to more than $2 billion, the sleek stadium with a retractable roof would have not only been much bigger than the main venues of the last two summer Olympics, but would have potentially been the costliest stadium in history.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was particularly blunt at a news conference yesterday, saying, "The current plan will go back to being a blank sheet of paper, and we will rethink it from scratch."
This decision comes after a storm of criticism from the public, including a series of memes mocking the stadium's design, as well as pushback from the architecture community. Edward Suzuki, Toyo Ito and Fumihiko Maki all drafted petitions to alter Hadid's design, and Arata Isozaki described the design as "like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away."
Initially set to be built on the site of the Mitsuo Katayama-designed National Stadium used in the 1964 games, the Hadid design has been controversial since being selected in 2012, even after she redesigned it to make it more compact. Critics have labeled the 80,000-seat venue extravagant and expensive, with its price tag and size (the National Stadium seats 54,000) seen as departures from an effort to host a more cost-conscious Olympics. While officials claim the increased estimates come from both rising labor costs and a realization that a pair of support arches would be more complex and expensive than first realized, Hadid's office has said that the costs aren't related to her design. She's also called out organizers and critics for being unwilling to have an outsider design the stadium, telling Dezeen, "they don't want a foreigner to build in Tokyo for a national stadium."
The plan now is to start from scratch, which means the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which was set to use the stadium, will need to find a new home. Details of a new competition or commission have yet to be released.