Sports Facilities

New Olympic Stadium Looks Like a Bird Head, or Possibly a Bike Helmet

26 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Lukewarm Reception to Design is Being Felt Around the World, But Particularly in Japan

It’s not the first time the aesthetics of a sports facility have come under criticism, and it certainly won’t be the last. But at the moment, it’s the most high-profile facility taking heat for its physical appearance.

The design for the stadium for the 2020 summer Olympics in Tokyo is set to be finalized – and the reception has been the equivalent of a glassy-eyed stare.

According to an article in Gizmodo (entitled “The Fight Over Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium is Getting Very, Very Ugly”), designer Zaha Hadid's original concept for the stadium Olympic stadium was roundly criticized as being too big and too expensive. And that’s excluding the continued lambasting of the design.  In fact, protests against the chosen design escalated to the point that an altered design was announced that would cut down on the exorbitant cost of the proposed design, originally $3 billion.

In November, some of critics spoke to The Guardian about their qualms. Here are a few notable quotes included in the post from critics and architects of the design:

  • "A monumental mistake."

  • "A disgrace to future generations."

  • "I'm saying it's just ridiculous [...] We are raising our voices, but they don't listen. We are not a civil society where citizen voices can be critical."

  • "Like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away"

  • "The sight left me in despair. If the stadium gets built the way it is, Tokyo will surely be burdened with a gigantic white elephant."

The project was also compared to a bike helmet, a mutant bird’s head, a spaceship rejected by a B-movie and "the stadium equivalent of a monstrous Prada bag plopped down in a lovely park."


Oh, and if that isn’t offensive enough, noted Gizmodo, a public housing project will be torn down in order to create land for the stadium.

There's also the price tag, in a country still reeling from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, with tens of thousands still living in temporary housing. And then there's the sheer size; residents have noted that once the Olympics are over, very few events will draw a crowd substantive enough to fill the arena.

The rugby World Cup final will be held at the stadium in 2019. During the Olympics it'll host the opening and closing ceremonies and all track and field events.

And after that?

"Okay, Lady Gaga can come once a year and fill the stadium ... but there aren't too many events that are going to attract that many people," Tokyo professor Jeff Kingston said.

Construction on the project is set to begin October 1. Reports say it could cost more than $2 billion, which would make it the most expensive stadium ever built.


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