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Tokyo Olympic stadium architect denies copying Zaha Hadid design

The architect behind Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium has denied that he borrowed parts of the design submitted by Zaha Hadid, the British-Iraqi designer whose original stadium design was scrapped last year to cut costs for the 2020 Games.Kengo Kuma denied claims by Hadid’s office that the new design bore striking similarities to the original.

This week the London-based Hadid complained that the Japan Sports Council was withholding payment for her work and demanding that she waive any copyright claims.

“In the design, I would like to say there are no similarities at all,” Kuma told reporters when asked about Hadid’s claims.

Kuma said both architects had to meet strict requirements for the 80,000-seat stadium, which will be built on the site of the now-demolished national stadium used when Tokyo last hosted the summer Games, in 1964.

“The conditions set for the competition mean that automatically some similarities emerge,” he said, adding that “the concept is completely different, so it is absolutely a different building, despite the similarities”.

Hadid’s office said it had turned down a request by the sports council to hand over copyright of her design in exchange for payment for the work she had submitted.

Her office sent a report to the sports council detailing the similarities in “the structure, layout and numerous elements” between her design and Kuma’s replacement.

Hadid’s office is reportedly consulting lawyers, and said it would “take legal action if our concerns are not promptly addressed to our satisfaction”.

Kuma, whose replacement design was chosen late last month, declined to comment on Hadid’s demand for negotiations over copyright.

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The consortium working on the new stadium includes two Japanese companies that earlier worked with Hadid.

The outer structure of Kuma’s design is smaller than Hadid’s, which some critics likened to a bicycle helmet or toilet seat. Others said its futuristic design was not in keeping with its surroundings in an old neighbourhood of central Tokyo.

Details of the layout and internal aspects of the structure are considered to be similar, however.

The decision by Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to scrap Hadid’s design last July was one of several setbacks to have hit Tokyo’s preparations since it was chosen to host the 2020 Olympics.

In September organisers decided to ditch the Games’s official logo amid accusations of plagiarism against designer Kenjiro Sano. A new logo will be selected in the next few months.

Last month the Tokyo Olympic organising committee admitted that the total cost of hosting the Games would be much higher than the original estimate of just over 300bn yen (£1.8bn).

Japanese media reported that the estimated bill had soared to 1.8tn yen due to “unforeseen” extra costs such as the construction of temporary venues, transport and infrastructure, and tightened security.

The organising committee is due to submit a revised cost estimate to the International Olympic Committee this summer.


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