IOC chief Bach confident about new stadium in Tokyo
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) The head of the International Olympic Committee remains confident that Tokyo will complete its new national stadium in time for the 2020 Summer Games, even though the original design has been scrapped because of soaring costs.
IOC President Thomas Bach responded bluntly when asked Saturday if there's any concern that Japanese organizers may have to come up with an alternative stadium to host athletics as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
''No, no, no,'' said Bach, who was at the British Open to promote golf's return to the Olympic program in 2016. ''I'm really sure Japan will deliver. I have no doubt.''
Japanese officials announced Friday they will reopen bidding for a new plan after the estimated cost for the Zaha Hadid-designed project climbed to $2 billion, which would have made it the most expensive stadium ever built.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was under increasing pressure at home to come up with an alternative, and the extravagant facility also was at odds with the IOC's new cost-cutting reforms known as Olympic Agenda 2020.
The decision to come up with a totally new design means the new stadium won't be ready in time for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, a bitter blow for that sport, which will stage its biggest event in Asia for the first time and had planned for a new 80,000-seat stadium to be a showcase for the opening game, semfinals and final.
The opening ceremony of the Olympics is only nine months after the Rugby World Cup's championship game, a tight timeline if the stadium is going to be ready in time for the first Summer Games in Japan since 1964.
The 72,000-seat International Stadium in Yokohama, located about 13 miles from Tokyo's city center and site of the soccer's World Cup final in 2002, seems the most likely replacement for the rugby title game.
The Yokohama stadium also can hold track and field events. Even so, it's not being considered as a possible Olympic site, Bach insisted, pointing out that Japan already demolished the main stadium that was used for the 1964 Olympics and plans to build a new stadium on that site.
''I think the decision in Japan has been taken to have a national stadium in Tokyo, and not just to have the old stadium demolished and leave an empty space,'' Bach said. ''I'm sure Japan will insist on having this stadium.''
World Rugby, the sport's international governing body, said it was ''extremely disappointed'' because Japan has repeatedly assured the stadium would be ready for 2019. The organization said it is seeking clarification from the Japanese organizing committee and looking at the impact of Friday's announcement.
The Yokohama stadium was already among 11 other venues selected for the rugby tournament.
For weeks, the public line of Abe and other government officials has been that they would stick with the stadium designed by award-winning architect Hadid, whose office blamed soaring construction costs in Tokyo and a tight deadline.
Japan's top government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga, said the contract with Hadid would be canceled, and a new international competition would be completed within six months. A new project and its estimated cost will then be announced.
Construction was scheduled to start in October on Hadid's design, chosen in 2012 in an international competition. Some people likened the design to a bicycle helmet.
The latest cost estimate, a sharp increase from the $1.3 billion estimate last year, would have surpassed the $1.6 billion MetLife Stadium in New Jersey as the world's most expensive stadium.
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