By Duncan Mackay

Japan's three-time Olympic wrestling gold medalist Saori Yoshida lights a torch during the farewell ceremony for the National Stadium in Tokyo ©AFP/Getty ImagesA crowd of 40,000 gathered today for a special farewell ceremony at Tokyo's National Stadium before it is closed for reconstruction in time for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, but the event was overshadowed by the continuing bitter row over the plans for the redesign.

The spaceship-like Stadium, designed by Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, who also designed the Aquatics Centre for the 2012 London Olympics, has been the subject of fierce controversy since Tokyo were awarded the Games last September. 

Earlier this week, the Japan Sports Council released a new design proposal reducing the size of the Stadium by more than 20 per cent and cutting costs from some 300 billion yen (£2 billion/$3 billion/€2.2 billion), more than twice the original bid estimate, to roughly 162.5 billion yen (£956 million/$1.6 billion/€1.1 billion).

But Edward Suzuki, a Tokyo-based architect, claims the new proposal is still flawed, especially given the number of trees that will have to be cut in one of the city's rare green areas.

"I've never felt so emotional about any kind of architecture up until now," Suzuki told Reuters.

"But it's happening in my garden, in our garden...We just can't let it happen.

"It's a sin, it's a crime."

Acrobatic team Blue Impulse perform a fly-past over the National Stadium in Tokyo before it closes for reconstruction in time for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics ©Tokyo 2020Acrobatic team Blue Impulse perform a fly-past over the National Stadium in Tokyo before it closes for reconstruction in time for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics ©Tokyo 2020

The height of the Stadium at its tallest point will be cut from 75 metres to 70 metres, but Suzuki said this is still too tall for the surrounding area, which includes a long avenue of trees and the Meiji Shrine, a noted tourist attraction.

"It's so overpowering, it's not a human scale," he told Reuters.

It's going to replace all the trees that had once been there.

"It was a park.

"Now it's just going to be a very man-made object that is not really beautiful to look at."

A petition he has set-up has gained 1,400 signatures in three weeks, 800 of them in the last three days.

Even though costs have been cut, Suzuki claims that the new Stadium will put a strain on the city's finances

"We're paying our taxes and spending our savings for the next generation," Suzuki said.

"I'm sure they're going to be stuck with this debt and this non-sustainable facility, they're going to be blaming us when we are in our graves."

He also claimed the new scaled down design ruined Hadid's initial proposal by destroying the flowing lines and dynamism of her original.

"I'm sure Hadid's office was involved, but I'm sure Zaha Hadid is not happy with the outcome," Suzuki said.

"It's not her design anymore, it's sort of a bad imitation of her original."

Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori was among those who paid their respects to the Stadium, which included some spectators taking part in a running event.

Other activities included football and rugby legends matches, an air show performed by Japan Air Self-Defence Force aerobatic demonstration team Blue Impulse, a concert and a fireworks display.

Finally, the public had the rare opportunity to go on to the pitch.

"Over the past half-century, the National Stadium has truly been a sanctum of Japanese sport," said Mori.

"It has hosted numerous unforgettable matches and competitions, and has a special place in the hearts of people all over Japan.

"I have been actively involved in sport for many, many years, and as the curtain closes on this historic venue, I find myself recalling several of the memorable sporting occasions that have graced the Stadium.

"I am extremely happy that I have been able to share the incredible memories the Stadium brings back and realize anew the wonder of sport with the many fans gathered here today.

"It was also fantastic to see Blue Impulse in action over the National Stadium again.

"I vividly remember the team flying over the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games and earning widespread admiration for their formation of the Olympic Rings in the air over the stadium.

"In six years from now, the new National Stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and will play host to the world's elite athletes.

"I am looking forward to joining the many fans that will gather here then to welcome the world, and to communicate the power and the values of sport and the Olympic Movement not only to the people of Japan, but to people across the entire planet.

"The new Stadium will be a legacy for future generations, and I hope the people of Japan will join us in uniting their efforts to ensure that the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are a resounding success."

A firework display over the National Stadium reminded everyone when it is due to be reopened ©AFP/Getty ImagesA firework display over the National Stadium reminded everyone when it is due to be reopened ©AFP/Getty Images

Demolition of the Stadium is due to start in July, and construction of the new arena is scheduled to begin in October 2015.

It will be used for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, as well as hosting the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athletics, football and rugby competitions for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

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