TOKYO — A top International Olympic Committee official urged Japan on Tuesday to speed up the troubled construction of Tokyo's new national stadium for delivery by January 2020, but the Japanese minister in charge of the Games cautioned this may not be possible.
IOC vice-president John Coates told reporters in Tokyo that he asked Japan's senior Olympic officials to meet the deadline in order to run a series of tests before the Games open in August 2020.
"The stadium has to be available for ceremonies and rehearsals," Coates said. "They need to have the handover to the organizing committee by January 2020." He emphasized the timing word by word.
That gives Japan three months less than the planned April 2020 handover.
Japan's Olympic Minister Toshiaki Endo, who was appointed to the post just two months ago, said it would be difficult to meet that target because April was already a tight deadline.
"April (2020) is the target we could barely make, and moving up the schedule further at this point is difficult," Endo said.
It was a "heavy request" he could not accept immediately, he said. "I will seek wisdom from everyone so Japan can finish the construction as quickly as possible and accommodate the request" from the IOC.
Coates said the IOC did not request an 80,000 capacity, the size Japan had set for the earlier design.
This design was scrapped in July following a public outcry over 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.
Endo said he hoped to keep the cost of the revised stadium below 200 billion yen ($1.7 billion).
The government has 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 said they are confident it will be built in time for the games.
Along with the stadium uncertainty, the official logo for the Tokyo Olympics triggered an allegation that its designer might have copied the emblem of a Belgian theatre. The Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano has denied the claim, saying his design is original and that he never saw the emblem for the Theatre de Liege before creating the logo.
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Mari Yamaguchi, The Associated Press