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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Japan's Five-Ring Circus

Apparently there is some backlash over the recent selection of a stadium-design for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Artist's rendering above.)

Some Japanese architects (and others) are lamenting the price tag - ¥250 billion ($2.02 billion) -- a huge rise from the ¥162 billion ($1.31 billion) proposed earlier - and we all know that it will probably exceed that monetary figure by the time it is actually completed.

For reference purposes, if you were to purchase a new NHL hockey franchise, it would cost you $0.500 billion just for the fees). $1-billion for a baseball team or a second NHL team in the Toronto area... it's all a matter of warped perspective.

While my new car windshield essentially put my whole family under the eight-ball this week (and a bit of next), I have a friend at work who had little food left and no paycheck remaining, and was willing to starve for a few days... I may not have much, but I'll always share what I have.

That's the whole "bread, not circuses" argument. 

Anyhow... with regards to the expensive 2020 Tokyo Olympic stadium design... others complain that the structure looks like a turtle or a giant bicycle helmet.

The stadium as conceived, is designed by Zaha Hadid, an architect of Iraqi and British descent.

I only mention that because he's not Japanese, which is no biggie to me.

But I wonder if that played a role in the way these Japanese architects have come together to bash the project.

Apparently Japanese architect Isozaki Arata (surname first) wrote to the government body in charge of these Olympics games, complaining in an open letter (that means he wants everyone to know his thoughts) and cried, that the very sight of the accepted design from Hadid left him "in despair", adding that the stadium would be a "disgrace to future generations."

In despair? Really? Do people really get in despair over architecture? "Ooooh, someone bring me my fainting couch  - swoooooooon."

So… after the design has been accepted, there are now concerns about costs, sustainability and suitability to the surrounding area… like didn't the Olympic committee take that stuff in to account prior to making its decision?

The fact that it chose a non-Japanese architect is actually quite impressive knowing it would probably receive hissy-fit comments from its Nihonjin blueprint artists.

There are now some who say that stadium is too large, and will bump against the outer gardens of the Meiji Shrine…  Okay, if that's true, I can understand trying to take a photograph of the gardens and having a glass and metal Giant Turtle appear in the background - that would suck.

Architect Maki Fumihiko doesn't appear to be a suck, and suggests that while essentially maintaing the design as Hadid envisioned it, if two of the arches were removed from alongside the length of the stadium, the overall costs would be greatly reduced.

Maki, by the way, was the architect behind the Tokyo gymnasium designed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Okay... I can see Japanese aesthetic-influence in the longer facility at the back... it looks like a Japanese house!
Maki and his group suggest that the biggest problem with the current design is 'the cost and length of construction".

Hey - valid criticism… and at least he offers a solution.

Damn Isozaki just whines…

Speaking of whining, gaijin Jeff Kingston, a professor of Asian Studies at Temple University in Tokyo told CNN this was a 'white elephant waiting to happen'.

His attack on the design (with subsequent solution, by the way) is that the people of Japan are going to be paying for this stadium for years to come - plus its design "tramples on Japanese aesthetics."

If you look at the artist's rendering above, you'll notice a baseball field over to the left. Regardless of whether or not Japan loves baseball, baseball and its subsequent baseball fields and stadia where also stains on Japanese aesthetics when first introduced.

Japan is full of skyscrapers - I'm pretty sure the original and main design is hardly a Japanese aesthetic.

How about all of those new houses that are being built nowadays… yes, they will still have sliding doors, crappy heating and tatami mat rooms per Japanese aesthetics, but what about the roof design? Flat, colored tiled roofs - just like what most houses have in Canada and the U.S…. Japanese aesthetics it's not.
Skytree tower on left inner, and Asahi Breweries HQ with its worm on the right.

Does anyone complain about the Tokyo Tower looking like the Eifel Tower? Or the Asahi Breweries headquarters lookig less like a flame, but more like a giant golden sperm?

Suji Kabuto samurai helmet.

Short of designing the stadium to look like a giant kabuto (samurai warrior helmet), what sort of Japanese aesthetic do you want?

Kingston says Japan should retrofit the old 1964 stadium… less expensive (hopefully), and no longer term costs to the taxpayers. Valid points, Kingston…

Except this is the effing Olympics. Ever since the 1984 Olympics when Peter Uberoth showed the world that the Olympics can be extremely profitable if marketed correctly, everyone has tried to turn their host event into something bigger than the what the previous hosts offered.

Greece did that, and now they are bankrupt.

I don't know if there's a correlation between their most recent Olympics and its still-current economic woes, but probably.

Look… I actually agree with Kingston that there is a possibility that Japan putting on the ritz could lead to economic crisis in the future, and that turning an existing facility into a better-working facility is smart… but this is the Olympics.

If some athletes aren't pissing into cups to prove they have been successful in cheating, then the suits behind the development and organization of the Olympic Games are surely involved in a pissing match.

It's not just a three-ring circus, it's a five-ring circus.

Your city and country comes under the global microscope when a major sporting event is taking place.

Sure… everyone talks about sustainability, but rare are the people who actually perform it as something more than lip service. For example… do you buy a $20,000 car or a $42,000 Prius? Yes, one is much better for the environment, but for many, the price tage makes it less desirable - our moral high ground gets trampled down a bit.

This is the Olympics... where some athletes, indeed some countries in the past have tried to cheat their way to fortune and glory. East Germany; Ben Johnson of Canada - sorry Ben, but you shouldn't have caused trouble for my girlfriend at the strip club that one time; hell Carl Lewis - don't sing or throw a baseball again… that was even mow embarrassing than being caught for steroids after yelling at every other racer who was caught before you…; and all those swimmers, bicycle riders, weightlifters; twin sister runners from Puerto Rico (just look it up - 1984), marathon runner using a car at the 1904 games; Russian fencer in 1976 with his altered epee sword that could register a hit with a push of a button; or... my favorite, the 1936 German man who posed as a woman in the high jump - he still only finished fourth as his wiener probably kept hitting the bar. 
Horst Ratjen (male) comes fourth posing as Dora Ratjen (female) in the women's high jump at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Sometimes he looks all male, other times, he looks female. Female-beautiful he's not.
This is a beauty pageant. So beauty and glitz count more (unofficially) than the actual talent portion of the contest. You know what I mean.

We all know, of course, that Hitler's Berlin Stadium for the 1936 Olympics was the largest of its kind in Europe... make your own conclusion here.

Anyhow… it's probably too late to do anything about the results now…

Japan Education Ministry is overseeing the development of the Olympic stadium for reasons I am currently unable to fathom.  Education Minister Shimomura Hakuman (surname first) said earlier this week (June 23, 2015) that if there's an alternative design out there that they could have built before the 2019 deadline, it would be considered.

But, one day later on Jun 24, 2015,  the Ministry of Sports and Youth Bureau rep Yamamoto Yukio (surname first) poo-pooed the Education Minister's suggestion.

Noting that the original Hadid design had already undergone some changes, suggesting to remove those side arches would essentially strip the stadium of being a Hadid design.

He adds that any changes made now would not be able to be implemented by the 2019 deadline… in case you are wondering HOW changing the drawing NOW affects a building that hasn't even had a shovel stuck in the ground, just note that there have to be new environmental assessments performed, building approvals re distribution of weight now that these side arches might be gone, studies written, various government orders and permissions must be obtained…

Even if it was something that could be done in six months, it would be too late to make the deadline… you know what government redcap is like any ways… it would never be able to be done in six months… 

However, Yamamoto declared that by sometime in July of 2015, a final decision regarding the stadium's design would be made.

And… despite wheat I have said and complained about above, at some point in time between now and the stadium opening, the stadium's design will be lathered again and again and again.

Often theory and practical don't mix in real life.


And besides... Japanese aesthetics? Are you kidding?

Surely these Japanese architects complaining of the turtle or bicycle helmet stadium design have heard of: 
  • Giant turtle - beloved international monster movie star Gamera that kids love some 50 years after his/her debut in 1965.

  • Bicycle Helmet - every school kid in Japan has and wears one;


  • Kabuto Pokemon - kids love... aw, you know... 

Maybe they should have designed a stadium to looked more like Godzilla... 
Anyhow... There's your Japanese aesthetics.

Let the games begin!
Andrew Joseph 



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