Protesters march to oppose demolition of Tokyo stadium
By Jim Armstrong ,AP
July 6, 2014, 12:09 am TWN
TOKYO -- A group of protesters marched around Tokyo's National Stadium on Saturday, demonstrating against plans to destroy the 56-year-old facility and replace it with a colossal, futuristic structure for the 2020 Summer Olympics.
About 500 protesters took part in the demonstration while carrying signs that read "We want a compact and economical Olympics" and "Reverse the 2020 Tokyo Olympics."
"The proposed stadium is too big," said Kazuhisa Oriyama, one of the organizers of Saturday's protest. "The organizers of the games need to reconsider their plans and make the public part of decision-making process."
The proposed 80,000-seat stadium, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, is to be the 2020 centerpiece but critics say the design is too big, too costly and clashes with Tokyo's urban planning.
Prominent architects and other opponents are petitioning the government to instead upgrade the existing 48,000-seat stadium that hosted the 1964 Olympics.
The Japan Sports Council, an arm of the central government that owns the existing stadium, has scheduled demolition to begin this month.
The sports council has already scaled back the original proposal to spend 300 billion yen (US$3 billion) on the new stadium to a still hefty 169 billion yen (US$1.7 billion).
The IOC, under new President Thomas Bach, is currently looking at ways of reducing the costs of hosting future Olympics. Several cities declined to bid or have dropped out of the race for the 2022 Winter Games because of financial concerns.
"The new stadium design was outsized and an infringement given the focus is an Olympics that pays attention to not overspending," said Karen Severns, an independent architectural scholar who took part in the demonstration.
Apart from cost, critics are unhappy with Hadid's design, which some claim resembles a bicycle helmet. It will have about four times the floor space of the current stadium and dominate the surrounding area of parks and other sports facilities.