December 21, 2015

TOKYO (AP) Japan chose a scaled-down design Tuesday for the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, five months after scrapping the initial design and construction plan for being too costly.

The new design, by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, will still cost 153 billion yen ($1.26 billion) to design, build and maintain. The initial stadium proposal would have cost 252 billion yen ($2.1 billion), making it the most expensive stadium ever built.

Kuma's combined steel and wood structure, with a relatively flat roof with shrubbery along its outer concourses, echoes traditional temple designs. It stands 50 meters (164 feet) tall, with the track and field below ground level.

''This is a wonderful plan which meets the basic vision in the new construction plan and requirements for construction period and the budget,'' Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in announcing the choice.

Tuesday's announcement was a major step for organizers, who were forced to start over on a new design less than five years before the 2020 Games.

The scrapping of the initial stadium plan forced the 2019 Rugby World Cup to change venues, and the late change had raised concerns about whether it could even be completed in time for the Olympics.

Organizers also had to deal with a plagiarism scandal over the logo for the event, and an investigation last month found backroom dealings in the selection process.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that the design selection process was more transparent than that for the previous stadium plan, and also addressed the main problems: cost and post-Olympic use.

The winning project will be led by major construction company Taisei Corp. Lead architect Kuma, known for his Japanese aesthetic, has also designed Tokyo's kabuki theater that was renewed in 2013.

Officials said the design won by a small margin over the alternative plan led by architect Toyo Ito and three construction companies Takenaka, Shimizu and Obayashi.

Suga said Kuma's plan was superior because of its ample environmental consideration and a possibility of shrinking the construction period.

The original plan by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid was criticized for its massive cost and scale.

Hadid said Japan's scrapping of her plan was ''shocking'' and that she said it was not about design or budget.

''In fact much of our two years of detailed design work and the cost savings we recommended have been validated by the remarkable similarities of our original detailed stadium layout and our seating bowl configuration with those of the design announced today,'' she said in a statement to The Associated Press.

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Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu contributed to this report.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Her work can be also found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mari-yamaguchi

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