By Michael Pavitt

Demolition of the old National Stadium is scheduled to finish in September ©Tokyo 2020/Shugo TakemiDemolition work has got underway at the National Stadium in Tokyo with construction of a new state-of-the-art arena for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics due to begin in October. 

The work demolishing the 48,000-seat National Stadium, which hosted the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as athletics, during the 1964 Olympics, the last time the Japanese capital had hosted the Games, had been due to begin last July. 

That was delayed, firstly, due to initial bids to demolish the Stadium being viewed as too high and then a complaint about the second bidding process prompted a Government panel to order another round. 

Despite the delays Hidetoshi Fujisawa, executive director of the communications bureau of Tokyo 2020, remains positive about the progress of the demolition of the Stadium, originally built to host the 1958 Asian Games.

"We are delighted that the demolition of the existing National Stadium is progressing very well," he said. 

"It appears work is firmly on course to be completed by September this year.

"Once the demolition work is finished, construction work on the new Stadium will commence almost immediately, and we are sure that the new structure will be completed on time.

"I am looking forward tremendously to seeing the completed stadium which, I am certain, will be one of the world's greatest stadia and a truly fitting centrepiece of the Tokyo 2020 Games."

The new Stadium, whose reconstruction is being overseen by the Japan Sports Council (JSC), is also due to host the final of the 2019 World Rugby Cup. 

The Custodians of the National Stadium have condemned the demolition which will enable the new National Stadium to be built ©Japan Sports CouncilThe Custodians of the National Stadium have condemned the demolition which will enable the new National Stadium to be built ©Japan Sports Council

The demolition of the National Stadium has been a controversial process.

There had been calls made to upgrade the existing Stadium, rather than build the new futuristic 80,000-seat arena, designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, who was also behind the London 2012 Aquatics Centre.

In July 2014, 500 people demonstrated against the demolition of the existing stadium, arguing that the proposed new construction is too big, expensive and would damage the local environment and landscape.

Additionally the Custodians of the National Stadium, a group who campaigned to stop it being demolished who had held a protest walk in January, have released a statement, condemning the demolition work, signed by Nobuko Shimizu, Board member of Preserving Landscapes and Living Environment.

"As a preliminary measure, JSC workers have felled Jingu Gaien's historic trees which have been cherished by athletes and citizens alike," the statement read.

"The JSC is taking these ill-advised steps to being the construction of a colossal new main Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"The construction costs are already estimated to double and even triple the initial estimate.

"Similarly, management and maintenance costs will spiral out of control.

"Thus, the new Stadium is destined to become a white elephant after the Games."

The initial cost of building the new Stadium was projected to be 130 billion yen (£808 million/$1.3 billion/€1 billion) however costs have since doubled, although they are expected to be scaled down.

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