- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—An official in the education and sports ministry who oversaw work on the new National Stadium will resign after costs soared with little explanation and the project was canceled.

In a statement Tuesday, the government said Kimito Kubo, head of the Sports and Youth Bureau, will be dismissed on Aug. 4 at his own request.

The departure is seen as part of a desperate attempt by the Abe administration to minimize the political damage from the episode. Taxpayers were left fuming at the project’s exorbitant cost.

During a news conference Tuesday, education minister Hakubun Shimomura stopped short of saying Kubo had been fired but said he was quitting because of Shimomura’s own assessment of a range of factors.

The estimated construction cost of the stadium suddenly surged to Y252 billion from Y130 billion with little explanation to the public, enraging voters and eventually prompting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to announce a redesign from scratch.

The stadium is to be the centerpiece of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Tokyo Gov. Yoichi Masuzoe had demanded that a ministry official in charge of the stadium be sacked, or, he declared on Twitter on July 23, Shimomura himself should resign.

Despite repeated questions from reporters during the news conference, Shimomura stopped short of saying Kubo’s departure was being sacked because of his failure to keep the construction budget under control.

“This is part of a regular personnel change, and yet it is based on (my) judgment made from a comprehensive viewpoint,” Shimomura said.

He also pointed out that a ministry-appointed investigation will soon be carried out by a third-party panel to find out what went wrong.

Opposition lawmakers have demanded that Shimomura should step down to take responsibility for the stadium debacle.

“I’d like the panel to discuss my responsibility, too, with no constraint. I’d like to humbly accept opinions” from panel members, he said.

Separately, the central government on Tuesday announced a reshuffle of a number of senior bureaucrats as part of regular personnel reassignments.

Among them, trade ministry bureaucrat Naoko Munakata will replace Makiko Yamada as executive secretary to the prime minister, the first female appointed to that position.

Shun Sakurai, 61, currently vice minister for policy coordination, will replace Toshio Oishi, 62 as the ministry’s top bureaucrat.

Sakurai is the father of Sho Sakurai, an actor and member of the pop idol group Arashi.

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(c)2015 the Japan Times (Tokyo)

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