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TOKYO (AP) — Japan's government has approved a plan to reduce the seating and slash the construction cost of the main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after public opposition to the initial design.
The cabinet approved the revised plan Friday, which would cap the price tag at 155 billion yen ($1.3 billion), down from the plan for a 252 billion yen stadium that the government abruptly scrapped in July.
The plan calls for a 68,000-seat stadium for the Olympics, down from the initially-required 80,000, though it would be expandable to that size for later events.
The earlier design was scrapped following a public outcry over the hefty price tag, which was nearly double the original estimate and would have made it the most expensive sports stadium ever.
The plan for the new facility calls for a stadium to "convey Japan's exquisite tradition and culture to the rest of the world" and blend well into the historical environment and aesthetics of a traditional Shinto shrine in the neighborhood, with ample use of wooden materials.
It calls for a "realistically best plan" while pursuing the cost-cutting effort, and the stadium, which will be primarily used for athletics events during the Games, will have a partial roof just above spectator seats.
The contractors for designing and construction will be chosen in late December ahead of the start of construction by December 2016.
"We must make sure to get the new national stadium completed in time for the opening of the 2020 Games," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at the outset of Friday's meeting.
The government will issue tenders for construction of the stadium based on the new parameters.
The revised construction schedule will be extremely tight. The stadium will not be able to accommodate the 2019 World Cup rugby as originally planned.
The plan approved Friday says the stadium must be ready by April but calls for further effort to speed up the construction for a completion as early as the end of January 2020 to meet the deadline proposed by International Olympic Committee.
During his visit in Tokyo last week, IOC vice president John Coates made the timeline request to Japanese Olympic officials while saying the IOC did not insist on an 80,000 capacity, the size for the earlier design.
Associated Press writer Ken Moritsugu in Tokyo contributed to this report.
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