Tokyo Olympic chief apologizes to IOC over stadium change

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Japanese organizers apologized to the IOC on Wednesday over the scrapping of the original plans for the Olympic stadium and gave assurances that the new venue will be ready in time for the 2020 Games.

"I extended my sincerest apologies for the fact that we would have to change the plan for the new national stadium," organizing committee head Yoshio Mori said after a meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach and his executive board in Kuala Lumpur.

Earlier this month, the Japanese government threw out the design plans amid public criticism of the 252 billion yen ($2 billion) price tag, which was nearly double the original estimate and would have made it the most expensive sports stadium ever.

The government said it would start over with a new design and construction competition. The move means the stadium will not be ready as planned for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, but Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee said they are confident it will be built in time for the Games.

Japanese officials said Bach told Mori there was no need to apologize.

"President Bach gave us his support and confidence in our plans," Mori said. "The IOC will give its full support to the improvements. President Bach has expectations that the plan will be improved."

Mori acknowledged that IOC board members had raised questions about the stadium changes.

"He gave us encouragement ... that the Olympic stadium will be completed in time for the Games. He said that this cannot just be left to the government of Japan alone, but we will fully cooperate with the relevant bodies. IOC has much expertise that it can contribute to this matter and that they are ready to offer any support necessary."

Toshiro Muto, chief executive officer of the Tokyo organizing committee, said a surge in costs of construction material will push costs up but that organizers would work hard to offset that.

"There will be an inflation [of prices], but we will make sure we minimize that," he said. "For us, the priority is to have it completed before the Olympics. We are sure and confident the stadium will be completed on time."

Zaha Hadid Architects, the designers of the original stadium plans, blamed the bidding process and soaring building costs for the spiraling price tag.

Two Japanese construction giants, Taisei Corp. and Takenaka Corp., which were part of the earlier plan, are expected to put in another bid.

The Japan Sport Council, the body overseeing the project, attributed about one-third of the increase in price to rising labor and materials costs and two-thirds to the unusual design by Zaha Hadid.

Also Wednesday, Muto updated the IOC board on the status of Tokyo's other venues, many of which have been moved over the past year in a bid to cut costs. Still up in the air is the location of the indoor cycling velodrome.

Muto said cycling's governing body, the UCI, would hold a board meeting in September on the issue. The UCI has resisted Japanese proposals to move from Tokyo to Izu, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) outside the capital.