Tokyo (AFP) - Japanese sports chiefs on Wednesday gave the greenlight to a new $1.6 billion stadium for the 2020 Olympics, all but dashing the hopes of campaigners who say the building and its price tag, are too big.
The basic design of the 80,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof, originally conceived by prize-winning Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid and shaped like a bike helmet, was rubber-stamped by the council and a panel of advisers.
The structure is set to be built on the site of the 56-year-old, 54,000-seat National Stadium, which will be dismantled over 15 months beginning in July.
The new stadium is set to be completed in time for the rugby World Cup, which Japan hosts in 2019, a year ahead of the Summer Games.
The Tokyo stadium will be built in an area with numerous parks and a grand Shinto shrine, and will tower over most of the structures around it, with building heights historically limited to 15 metres. That limit was raised by Tokyo Metropolitan Government to 75 metres in June last year.
Criticism grew when Japan's minister in charge of the Olympics estimated the stadium would cost about 300 billion yen ($3 billion), more than double the 130 billion yen that was originally stipulated in the design competition.
The estimated cost has since been reduced to 160 billion yen, including by scaling down the stadium's floor space.
Critics have scoffed at the sudden price cut, and suggest the final bill will be much higher.