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Costs, construction periods key to success of Olympic stadium proposals

The site that is to hold Japan's new Olympic stadium is seen at center, in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 23, 2015. (Mainichi)

The Japan Sport Council (JSC) has unveiled two proposals submitted by design and construction joint ventures to build the new National Stadium that will serve as the main venue for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    There are only two proposals this time as opposed to 46 applications for the original plan that was scrapped amid public outcry over the estimated construction cost. The two new proposals look similar to each other, and their proposed construction costs and construction periods, that are important factors in screening, are roughly the same. In addition, the two proposals have the same title: "Mori no Stadium" (The Stadium of Trees).

    The JSC publicly solicited bids from business operators that can handle both design and construction of the new stadium. Most architects could not tie up with building firms, resulting in few opportunities. Some experts are critical about the fact that the principle of competition is not operating in the selection process.

    Before the two proposals were unveiled, an official of a general contractor said, "Similar proposals will be submitted because demand levels are limited to the construction cost and period."

    Proposal A is based on the concept of the "stadium linking the network of the green, water and sports of Jingu Gaien (the outer gardens of Meiji Shrine)." Proposal B is based on the concept of a "stadium, surrounded by bright and rich trees, rediscovers 'a new tradition' by inheriting the history of Jingu Gaien." The original proposal made by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and later scrapped by the government, came under fire for what critics said would pose scenery problems due in part to its bow-like structure. Both of the two new proposals emphasize a "Japanese touch" that fits into Jingu Gaien.

    The structure of the stadium in Proposal A is three-tiered, while the stadium in Proposal B is two-tiered. But a person versed in design said, "Because their depths are roughly the same and they are designed in an elongated planar shape, the impressions of the two proposals look quite similar. They share regrettable coincidences including the same title."

    The new proposals will be examined by a screening panel set up in the JSC, the primary contractor. After holding hearings, seven experts on the panel will grade the proposals. Of the total of 140 points for each panel member to award, each expert has 70 points for "construction cost and period."

    The construction cost estimated in Proposal A is 149 billion yen, while Proposal B has an estimated construction cost of 149.7 billion yen. As for methods of reducing the construction cost and shortening the construction period, Proposal A emphasizes the group's technological competence, stating, "It is a structure that combines same frames in a simple way." Proposal B emphases the joint venture's past results, describing its plan as "a rock-solid structure on which three construction firms stake their prestige." An official of a general contractor said, "Specifics of construction costs and methods of shortening the construction periods were painted out in black and released as such. I think they are the points that will make a difference (between the two bidders)."

    The two proposals feature the use of "wood." Experts point out that Proposal A has a notion of "horizontality" while Proposal B has a notion of "perpendicularity." In Proposal A, "balks" that are used in eaves of shrines and temples will be used in the new stadium, citing the five-story pagoda at Horyuji Temple in Nara Prefecture. In Proposal B, the stadium stands are surrounded by 72 pillars. Citing an example of Sannai-Maruyama Ruins (in Aomori Prefecture), it calls attention to big trees being lined up at a ritual site dating back to the Jomon Period.

    A person in the design industry said, "Proposal A uses wood in the roof and Proposal B uses wood in pillars. There may be a big difference depending on when and where one can see wood when they visit the stadium."

    Hidetoshi Ono, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo who was in a group calling for a review of the original stadium plan, said, "After taking a bird's-eye view, opinions may emerge that they (the latest proposals) are simpler than the original plan, but discussion should be made on whether the stadium blends into the surrounding environment at the height of people's eyes."

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