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The fantasy of the Olympic Games as ”recovery” from nuclear disaster, and from Covid-19

Before the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world, the Japanese government originally painted the 2020 Olympic Games as the “Recovery Olympics,” meant to showcase how the nation rebuilt in the decade following the cataclysmic triple disaster of 2011

“The government is now talking of an Olympics that could be a sign of humanity’s triumph over the pandemic, but vaccines have not yet been put into practical use, and the world has not yet been freed from the risk of infection,” he added. “There is no chance of success by trying to box in reality to meet the labels the government upholds. The idea of a ‘coronavirus Olympics’ may also likely end as a mere fantasy.”

Discontent over Fukushima nuclear disaster response casts shadow over Tokyo Olympics, Yahoo News, CATHERINE THORBECKE and ANTHONY TROTTER, Mon, July 26, 2021, Some 150 miles from Tokyo’s Olympic venues, calendars that line the walls of empty classrooms remain frozen on a date more than a decade in the past: March 11, 2011.

Images from an abandoned elementary school in Futaba, Japan, are an eerie reminder of the uneven recovery efforts 10 years after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a catastrophic tsunami and caused the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

About 164,000 people were forced to evacuate in the aftermath of the meltdown at the now-infamous Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Many never returned home.

As the Japanese government doggedly forges ahead with the delayed and beleaguered Olympic Games this year, some advocates say initial promises that the situation in Fukushima is “under control” are false. Some also say the “Recovery Olympics” branding exploits residents who feel forgotten, and cleanup of the Dai-ichi power plant will take decades longer than government estimates.

Japanese officials insist radiation levels in reopened parts of Fukushima prefecture — which is set to host baseball and softball for the Summer Games — are safe for visitors, and many independent monitors agree. But what many say is a lack of transparency has eroded public trust, and a new debate rages over the what to do with the more than 1 million tons of “treated” radioactive wastewater piling up in storage tanks at the damaged nuclear power plant.

Here is how the legacy of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe looms large over the Tokyo Olympics.

A ‘Made in Japan’ disaster

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (a group mandated by Japanese legislators to examine what went wrong and make recommendations), told ABC News that recovery efforts are far from complete and a permanent plan for how to dispose of contaminated waste is not in place.

It has a long way to go,” Kurokawa told ABC News of Fukushima’s recovery. “It’s a very tragic thing — and there are just certain people that cannot go back.”

The issue is, what is the long-term prospectus of how to contain Fukushima Dai-ichi, and I’m not so sure TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] has a clear long-term plan of what to do,”

 Kurokawa added. “They’re doing at least their best effort, but I think cleaning up radioactivity is a mess, and particularly with Fukushima Dai-ichi’s issues.”

While the quasi-state-owned power firm that runs the embattled nuclear power plant has suggested a 30- to 40-year timeline for decommissioning, Kurokawa said conflicting research estimates it could take at least “100 years.”

In his team’s scathing report on what went wrong, delivered to Japanese lawmakers in the aftermath of the event, Kurokawa calls the nuclear catastrophe a “profoundly manmade disaster — that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

Kurokawa blasted cultural factors in the nation with the world’s third-largest gross domestic product that he says ultimately resulted in more suffering……….

The biggest issue from our point of view has been this historical lack of adequate transparency on the part of TEPCO and also the Japanese government,” Azby Brown, a researcher for the nuclear monitoring nonprofit organization Safecast, told ABC News, “and this is from the beginning and may actually predate the accident.”

“We see some similar things happening regarding the coronavirus response and even among the negotiations or the discussions regarding the Olympics and what measures will be taken to protect the safety of people who come here for that,” Brown added. “So, it’s all part of a similar phenomenon within Japanese institutions and bureaucracies and government.”

Recovery is far from reality’ ahead of so-called ‘Recovery Olympics’

Before the COVID-19 pandemic engulfed the world, the Japanese government originally painted the 2020 Olympic Games as the “Recovery Olympics,” meant to showcase how the nation rebuilt in the decade following the cataclysmic triple disaster of 2011

The global health crisis and mounting costs associated with hosting the international event during a once-in-a-century pandemic has led to dwindling public support for holding the games, but these concerns appear to have largely fallen on deaf ears. Many locals have expressed fears that it could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases as vaccination rates in Japan lag far behind its peers in the developed world.


For some residents or evacuees of Fukushima, however, hosting the Olympics at a cost of some $12.6 billion is a painful reminder of government-spending priorities.

“Some people feel abandoned not only by the government but also by the nation,” Kazuya Hirano, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told ABC News. “They also feel used for the promotion of the government slogan, the ‘Recovery Olympics.'”

Hirano — whose research has focused on the continued social, political and health effects of the disaster — said that the government terminated financial support for evacuees in 2017, but most have not returned home.

“Reconstruction does not make much sense as most former Fukushima residents who were affected by the disaster have not returned or have no intention to return because they are worried about the radiation for their families as well as themselves,” Hirano said. “Most people have already settled in new places.


……..  ”for them to try to use this as a way to showcase recovery, it was a sketchy idea from the beginning and I think now it’s probably certainly backfired,” he said. “Instead, it will only highlight the problems and the lack of recovery.”……….


With “real, concrete things” still not adequately taken care of in Fukushima, Brown said many residents view the billions of dollars pumped into the Olympics as “just misspent funds.”

In his 2013 speech pitching Tokyo as a host city, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told members of the International Olympic Committee that the situation in Fukushima is “under control” and “has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.”

His words have drawn ire from Fukushima residents for years.

In July 2020, Katsunobu Sakurai — who was mayor of Minamiosama, Fukushima, at the time of the catastrophe — blasted the “Recovery Olympics” branding in an interview with the one of the country’s biggest newspapers.

“No matter how much you tout the games as a sign of recovery, the overall picture of only Tokyo prospering while the recovery of the disaster-hit areas in the Tohoku region remains undone will not change,” he told the Mainichi newspaper, referring to the region that is home to Fukushima. “I’ve been to Tokyo many times, and saw that there were more crane trucks at the construction site of the athletes’ village than in the disaster-hit areas.”

“It was obvious at a glance where the national government was placing its resources,” he added……..

While the government has assured visitors the designated areas in Fukushima are safe, some independent monitoring organizations, including Greenpeace Japan, have reported finding radioactive hotspots with readings that don’t align with figures released by the officials.

Kurokawa and Brown agreed that the risk of dangerous levels of radiation exposure in reopened areas of Fukushima is low, but residents’ trust in official statements also remains low…………………………………

The Japanese government has prepared for the Olympics while upholding the ‘disaster recovery’ label, even though a recovery is far from reality,” Sakurai said to the Mainichi newspaper in July 2020. “It is superficial to declare a recovery with no actual progress.”

“The government is now talking of an Olympics that could be a sign of humanity’s triumph over the pandemic, but vaccines have not yet been put into practical use, and the world has not yet been freed from the risk of infection,” he added. “There is no chance of success by trying to box in reality to meet the labels the government upholds. The idea of a ‘coronavirus Olympics’ may also likely end as a mere fantasy.” https://www.yahoo.com/gma/discontent-over-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-090220990.html


July 27, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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