Criticism mounts over stadium cost for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO (AP) Japan's government is on the defensive as criticism mounts over the spiraling cost of the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Officials, however, say it's too late to change the design.

Newly appointed Olympic Minister Toshiaki Endo acknowledged Tuesday that the latest estimate of 252 billion yen ($2 billion) represents a "substantial increase'' from the initial estimate of 162.5 billion yen.

''I'm aware that many people are opposed to the plan, as public polls show,'' he told a parliamentary committee, promising to explain the increase to the public.

Opposition lawmakers demanded answers from Endo and other officials.

Education and Sports Minister Hakubun Shimomura said the government considered a design change, but decided that would make it impossible to finish in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the first event scheduled for the stadium.

Separately, a ruling party lawmaker expressed frustration about the growing controversy.

''The majority of the people have raised question over the plan,'' Toshihiro Nikai told a party executives meeting. ''And we don't have an explanation that makes sense.''

The stadium, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, will go up on the site of the recently razed National Stadium built in central Tokyo for the 1964 Olympics. Construction is to begin in October.

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