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Japan may scale down new 2020 Olympic stadium

The Tokyo Stadium, one of the proposed Olympic stadiums for the 2020 Summer Olympic games, is seen in this computer-generated file handout i
The Tokyo Stadium, one of the proposed Olympic stadiums for the 2020 Summer Olympic games, is seen in this computer-generated file handout i

TOKYO - (Reuters) - Japan may scale down its plans for a new Tokyo stadium for the 2020 Olympic Games in an effort to curtail rising costs and fend off criticism the originally planned building is too large.

Olympics minister Hakubun Shimomura told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that the new stadium could cost as much as 300 billion yen ($3.08 billion), as opposed to the 130 billion yen in Tokyo's bid proposal, and that the government would consider scaling back.

An official at the Education Ministry said the original estimate was for the stadium alone, and the additional costs would be for landscaping and other work on the grounds around the new stadium, which would have 80,000 seats compared to 54,000 in the present stadium.

"The minister meant two things - that while guaranteeing the stadium has the needed facilities and scale to host the Olympics, the building could be made smaller, more compact," said Yukio Yamamoto, in the ministry's Sports and Youth bureau.

"Then there's also the idea that the cost may be too much," added Yamamoto, who confirmed that reductions in both are being considered although nothing has been decided.

The spaceship-like stadium was designed by London architect Zaha Hadid, who also designed the aquatics center for the London 2012 Olympics.

The present national stadium, which was built to host the 1964 Olympics, is set to be demolished next year.

The plans have come under criticism from Japanese architects, who say it is too big and would not blend in with its environment. Its construction would also require cutting down a number of trees, a precious commodity in crowded Tokyo.

Yamamoto said any changes might reduce the amount of space for things such as exhibition rooms, but that things essential for hosting the international sports extravaganza would be untouched and the number of seats would be unchanged.

"Basically the changes would be to make the stadium the 'correct' size, it would not be of a size that would make it impossible to host the Olympics," he said. "It's a matter of making it the right size and the right cost."

($1 = 97.2900 Japanese yen)

(Reporting by Elaine Lies, editing by Peter Rutherford)

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