TOKYO – Tokyo held a groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday for a $1.5 billion National Stadium to host the 2020 Olympic Games.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike and other dignitaries launched the construction at the site of the demolished National Stadium, which was used during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, by putting their hands on a glass sphere that rotated through pastels of the colors of the Olympic logo.
The ceremony ended with a video replete with computer graphics showing how the stadium is expected to look and function once completed by November 2019.
Work on the stadium in the center of the city fell behind schedule because the government abandoned the original design amid spiraling costs and complaints over its scale and appearance.
Koike, Tokyo’s first female governor, took office in July pledging to use her platform to host a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly 2020 Olympics. She has lambasted organizers of the 2020 games for failing to keep costs under control.
An expert panel she appointed put the price tag of the 2020 Games at over $30 billion, barring drastic cost-cutting measures, a more than a four-fold increase from the initial estimate when the city was awarded the games in 2013.
Fans of the old stadium, built in the late 1950s, had lobbied to keep and renovate it. But in the end the government opted to replace it with a more modern facility.
Kengo Kuma, the architect of the new, open-air stadium, chose a wooden lattice design that echoes traditional styles seen in Japanese shrines and pagodas. It is intended to blend in with surrounding parkland and will be structured to minimize costs for heating and cooling.
The structure will use Japanese-grown larch in its wood and steel composite roof and prefabricated panels to help speed the work along and contain costs.