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Japan official quitting amid Tokyo 2020 stadium row
[TOKYO] A Japanese bureaucrat heading construction of the 2020 Olympic stadium is quitting his post after Tokyo ordered design plans for the venue to be ditched amid public anger over its US$2.0 billion price tag.
Kimito Kubo, 58, director-general of the education ministry's sports and youth bureau, was stepping down next month for "personal reasons", the government said Tuesday, describing it as a simple personnel shuffle.
But the resignation of Mr Kubo - who was overseeing the venue's construction - was widely viewed as him taking the blame for the embarrassing row, sparking calls from opposition parties for Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura to quit instead.
Building costs for the showpiece venue had nearly doubled to 252 billion yen (S$2.78 billion), which would put it on track to become the world's most expensive stadium.
Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid's futuristic design had been met with fury by many Japanese architects. But what began as a cosmetic row gave way to widespread discontent and public bickering over finances.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe waded into the growing furore, ordering officials to rip up the plan and "go back to the drawing board" to rein in the spiralling costs.
Days later, it was revealed that Japan would be on the hook to pay as much as US$50 million in costs tied to already-awarded contracts linked to the original design.
A new bidding process was being launched with another design expected within six months, officials have said.
The decision means the organisers of the 2019 Rugby World Cup will have to find a new venue for the final, but officials said a new stadium could still be completed in time for the 2020 Summer Games.
The original design's eye-watering price tag dwarfs that of other Olympic venues.
London spent around US$680 million on the main venue for the 2012 Games, while Beijing's 2008 "Bird's Nest" stadium cost less than US$500 million.