Tokyo split over Zaha Hadid’s ‘gigantic white elephant’ Olympic stadium

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Zaha Hadid's Tokyo Olympic stadium slammed as a 'monumental mistake'
‘Like a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away’: Zaha Hadid’s revised design for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic stadium. Image: ZHA

In a little over five years, Tokyo will host the world’s greatest athletes for the first time in half a century. But before a single foundation stone has been laid, the Japanese capital, host of the 2020 Olympics, has become the arena for a verbal duel over what will be, or should be, the Games’ defining monument.

The celebrations that greeted the city’s selection as host almost two years ago – it last hosted the summer Olympics in 1964 – have given way to public bickering over the size and design of the event’s showpiece: the sleek, futuristic main stadium designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.

Far from embracing her blueprint, some of Hadid’s fellow architects have denounced the 80,000-seat structure as a monstrosity that stands out only because of its incongruity with its surroundings.

The most withering criticism has come from the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki, who designed the Palau Sant Jordi used in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In a long open letter sent to the Japan Sports Council (JSC) in November, the 83-year-old said Hadid’s design looked like “a turtle waiting for Japan to sink so that it can swim away”. .