Just over 2 years left, intense work at Tokyo stadium site

TOKYO (AP) The Olympic Stadium in Tokyo is starting to take shape as structures of what will become spectator stands are being installed after 10 months of underground foundation work.

With its completion deadline just over two years away, work is intense.

Olympic Minister Shunichi Suzuki, during a visit to the site Tuesday, said the construction is proceeding as scheduled, praising the workflow efficiency. He said all possible technology must be mobilized to finish by the November 2019 deadline. Suzuki, however, cautioned that workers should not stockpile overtime.

''We must mobilize all possible technology so that we can accomplish this splendid stadium by the deadline as planned,'' Suzuki said. ''But working conditions must meet legal standards.''

Behind him were 22 huge cranes that rose into the sky, putting concrete panels and steel frames in place.

Suzuki cited the suicide earlier this year of a worker linked to overwork, or ''karoshi,'' and addressed the concerns about the working environment at the project. He reminded main construction company Taisei Corp. and the Japan Sport Council, the government-funded stadium operator, to keep close tabs on overwork. The operators have since taken measures and the working environment has improved.

The construction was more than a year behind schedule when it started, as an earlier stadium plan was scrapped because of a spiraling cost and unpopular design. The government approved the 150 billion yen ($1.5 billion) stadium by a joint venture among Taisei, Azusa Sekkei Co. and the office of Kengo Kuma, an architect who designed the replacement.

The death of a 23-year-old worker captured national attention in July when his family sought the government to certify him as a ''karoshi'' victim. The body of the man was found in the central Japan mountains in April, weeks after he disappeared, with a suicide note saying he was ''physically and mentally pushed to the limit.'' His lawyer said his overtime had exceeded 200 hours a month before he killed himself - more than twice the 80-hour-per-month redline for a death from overwork.

Tokyo's labor standard office is still investigating.

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Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Find her work on APNews at https://www.apnews.com/search/mari%20yamaguchi

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