A petition with tens of thousands of signatures. Protestors in the streets. Fiery op-eds. All this public unrest in Tokyo isn't over an election or divisive political issue. It's about the design of the city's 2020 Olympic Stadium. And the people are winning.
After a year of public protests against the design for a new Olympic Stadium, which was created by London-based architects Zaha Hadid, we can score one for the general public: In a statement published today on BD Online, Hadid announced that the firm would redesign their plan "to optimize the investment and make the stadium even more efficient, user-focused, adaptable and sustainable."
In other words, they're going to address all of the issues that have pissed of tens of thousands of people in Japan—including a group of prominent architects. You can read a full rundown of the issues here, but the general gist is this: Hadid's $3.1 billion stadium is not only too expensive, it's too big to be safe, it's full of design flaws, and perhaps worst of all, it would demolish a perfectly workable stadium from the 1964 Olympics. Now, Hadid will reassess the design and come back with a second plan, as of yet TBD.
The fact that Hadid's office has backed down is a huge victory for the public—and the Japanese architects that spearheaded the effort to stop the stadium. Unsurprisingly, the IOC and its band of merry fatcats are not pleased with Tokyo's increasing skepticism over the rising cost of its bid. "There will be no changes unless there is the full sign-off from all the international federations," said an IOC vice president named John Coates—yes, the same John Coates who has led the bullying of Rio.
The IOC should tread carefully here. Tokyo has now used grassroots citizen action to change its plans—and other cities could easily follow suit. In fact, some critics (Gizmodo included) have argued that Rio should rebel against the IOC's and stage a scaled-down "austerity games" in light of ballooning costs and construction issues.
Meanwhile, the IOC is scrambling to even find a city interested in hosting the 2022 Olympics. Yesterday, it announced the three cities in the final bidding process: Oslo, Beijing, and Almaty, Kazakhstan. But almost 60 percent of Oslo residents are against the bid, and it could easily be struck down by a public vote. That would leave Beijing and Almaty, a tiny city in a country that's been accused of human rights abuses and rampant corruption.
So it seems that after decades of strong-arming cities into unsustainable Olympic bids, host cities are finally standing up to the IOC. And FIFA isn't doing much better.