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Coronavirus question mark still hangs over Tokyo Olympics in 2021

V‚½‚ȃJƒEƒ“ƒgƒ_ƒEƒ“A passerby takes photos of a countdown clock in front of Tokyo Station on Monday showing the adjusted days and time for the start of the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games, which are now set to begin on July 23, 2021.

 

March 31, 2020

Although this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics were postponed by about a year due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the lingering question is whether the global health crisis will be under control by then.

The capital is facing a mounting challenge following the first Olympic postponement in history, with local organizers confronted with the task of reworking the preparations of the last six years.

The International Olympic Committee and the local organizers agreed Monday that the Tokyo Olympics, originally set to open on July 24 this year, will run between July 23 and Aug. 8, 2021, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

The IOC has stressed the importance of holding the Tokyo Games in 2021, with President Thomas Bach saying the sporting event can be a “celebration of humankind after having overcome the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus.”

However, even as the organizers try to settle one problem after another, ranging from securing venues and lodging for athletes and officials, gathering volunteers and figuring out how to shoulder the additional costs, the key to hosting a successful Tokyo Games is something they cannot control by themselves.

On March 24, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bach agreed to hold the Tokyo Olympics in the summer of 2021 at the latest after they were pressured by athletes to make changes to the schedule to prevent a further spread of the coronavirus and to provide them a chance to prepare fully.

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Organising Committee, said at a press conference shortly after the agreement was reached that the virus is their “top concern” but that he expects the situation will change due to medical advancements.

Kazuhiro Tateda, who heads the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases, says whether infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, could be drastically curtailed by next summer is still unknown, but predicts the pace of the spread will decelerate.

“The new coronavirus has been spreading at a very rapid pace,” Tateda said. “In the next few months, the virus will spread in both the northern and southern hemispheres. If those people who recovered become immune to the virus, we can say that the outbreak will settle down.”

“But we can’t tell what the situation is like in a year,” he said.

Speaking at the press conference with Mori, the organizing committee’s CEO, Toshiro Muto, said a one-year postponement was a “reasonable” decision at a time when no health experts can say for sure when the pandemic will end.

The March 24 decision came just two days before the initial start of the 121-day torch relay in Japan and exactly four months ahead of the opening of the Olympics.

It was also made on the day Tokyo overtook Hokkaido as the region with the most infections.

“If I’m asked whether the coronavirus (situation) settles in the summer of next year, I can’t say that it will be absolutely fine,” Muto said. “But if something like that happens, not only Japan but also the rest of the world will be in a devastating situation. I predict people to come up with new drugs if that’s the case.”

Tateda, a member of the government’s panel of experts, said the organizers made a “rational” choice, but they need to monitor the situation throughout their preparation period and make changes to the schedule if necessary.

Meanwhile, Koji Wada, a professor at the International University of Health and Welfare, says staging the Olympics next summer could be “difficult,” given that the pneumonia-causing virus has spread to all of the world’s seven continents except Antarctica since it broke out in China late last year.

“I think it’s a little too optimistic to assume that many people will become immune to the virus in one year and three months and be able to travel back and forth,” he said in a recent interview.

“Two years might have been better, but barely possible. Even then, there will be cases of infections around the world, and the games will have to go ahead under tough circumstances,” he said.

Wada said staging the Olympics and Paralympics will be different from any other event because a huge number of athletes and spectators from all over the world will gather, and the development of vaccinations and medications will be unlikely in a year.

“It is difficult to place countermeasures against infections to athletes,” he said. “What are they going to do with athletes who come from countries that still have cases of infection? People will suggest putting them under quarantine for about two weeks, but what would happen if that athlete tests positive?”

The European Union’s disease control body released a report on March 25 saying that the summer heat and humidity will be unlikely to prevent the virus from spreading, adding there is no evidence that COVID-19 displays a marked seasonality.

“Based on preliminary analyses of the COVID-19 outbreak in China and other countries, high reproductive numbers were observed not only in dry and cold districts but also in tropical districts with high absolute humidity, such as Guangxi (China) and Singapore,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said in the report.

Wada warns that holding the Summer Games when the virus situation is not under control will take away from the fairness of the sporting extravaganza.

In particular, it would be difficult for athletes competing in contact sports, such as wrestling and judo.

The Tokyo Games are not the first games to be threatened by global health issues.

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Games were held following the outbreak of swine flu the previous year, while the previous Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro were held amid fears over the mosquito-transmitted Zika virus.

However, Wada said the new virus is not like any other, characterizing it as “nothing we have experienced in recent history.”

“The coronavirus is very difficult compared to other viruses because it spreads through people who do not show symptoms. And since none of us are immune to it, it can spread all over the world,” he said.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/31/general/coronavirus-question-mark-tokyo-olympics/?fbclid=IwAR3fDDJoy-D8vX_G2NqF6LQ5VpS9XqBbrXp1rYj4_3n5dCwo5LXhqTceD44#.XoPgzXLgqUk

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: New dates confirmed for 2021

_111474685_gettyimages-1208605047Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori (centre, at table) made the announcement at a news conference on Monday

 

30 March 2020

The Tokyo Olympic Games will start on 23 July, 2021 and run to 8 August after being postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive board met on Monday to make the decision.

The Olympics will still be called Tokyo 2020 despite taking place in 2021.

The Paralympic Games, originally due to start on 24 August, 2020, will now take place between 24 August and 5 September, 2021.

IOC president Thomas Bach said: “I am confident that, working together with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Japanese Government and all our stakeholders, we can master this unprecedented challenge.

“Humankind currently finds itself in a dark tunnel. These Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can be a light at the end of this tunnel.”

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons added: “When the Paralympic Games do take place in Tokyo next year, they will be an extra-special display of humanity uniting as one, a global celebration of human resilience and a sensational showcase of sport.

“With the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games 512 days away, the priority for all those involved in the Paralympic movement must be to focus on staying safe with their friends and family during this unprecedented and difficult time.”

If that is moved back exactly a year it would clash with the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham which is set to take place between 27 July and 7 August.

“We support the new 2021 dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. This gives our athletes the time they need to get back into training and competition,” World Athletics said in a statement.

“Everyone needs to be flexible and compromise and to that end we are now working with the organisers of the World Athletics Championships in Oregon on new dates in 2022.

“We are also in discussions with the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) and the European Championships.”

Chief executive of the CGC David Grevemberg said his organisation is “fully committed to hosting a successful Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, during 2022”.

He added: “Over the coming days, we will continue to work collaboratively with our international federation partners to ensure the XXII Commonwealth Games maintains its position and stature on the global sporting calendar.”

Olympic organisers hope the delay will allow sufficient time to finish the qualification process which will follow the same mitigation measures planned for 2020.

It has previously been confirmed that all athletes already qualified and quota places already assigned will remain unchanged.

Purchased tickets would be valid for rescheduled events or a refund could be requested when the new dates were set, organisers previously confirmed.

On 24 March, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo said the Games would be held in their “complete form” and no later than summer 2021.

Tokyo 2020 organising committee president Yoshiro Mori said he had proposed the 23 July to 8 August timeframe to the IOC, and that Bach had agreed, following consultations with the international sports federations.

“A certain amount of time is required for the selection and qualification of athletes and for their training and preparation, and the consensus was that staging the rescheduled Games during the summer vacation in Japan would be preferable,” Mori said.

“In terms of transport, arranging volunteers and the provision of tickets for those in Japan and overseas, as well as allowing for the Covid-19 situation, we think that it would be better to reschedule the Games to one year later than planned, in the summer of 2021.”

It is the first time in the Olympic Games’ 124-year modern history that they have been delayed, though they were cancelled altogether in 1916 because of World War One and again in 1940 and 1944 for World War Two. Cold War boycotts affected the summer Games in Moscow and Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984 respectively.

BPA “praises speed” of decision

The British Paralympic Association (BPA) has “praised the speed” with which the Tokyo 2020 Games have been rescheduled and hopes it will give athletes the “certainty they need to refocus on achieving their goals”.

Mike Sharrock, chief executive of the BPA, said: “”We recognise many challenges still lie ahead in the battle with the global Covid-19 pandemic and athletes will not be able to return to their training schedules for some time yet.

“The clear priority now is stemming this public health crisis and ensuring people follow the Government advice to stay safe and well.”

Sharrock added he believes Tokyo 2020 “has the potential to be the biggest and best Paralympics in history”.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/olympics/52091224?__twitter_impression=true&fbclid=IwAR3S3H025anfAA1-br0-j33e3w8kmdSWEJP8hOjGDDtQ3s8yckRjM7EFZK8

 

April 6, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s deadly hazard – highly radioactive sandbags

Nuclear sandbags too hot to handle,  https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/the-times/nuclear-sandbags-too-hot-to-handle/news-story/87b811443cb8e2881f55e17108872880 By RICHARD LLOYD PARRY, THE TIMES. APRIL 1, 2020  

    Japanese engineers trying to dismantle the melted reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant face a new hazard — radioactive sandbags so deadly that standing next to them for a few minutes could be fatal.

The sandbags were intended to make life easier for the teams dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011 when three reactors melted after a tsunami destroyed their cooling systems. Twenty-six tonnes of the bags were placed in basements beneath two of the reactors to ­absorb radioactivity from waste water.

They were stuffed with zeolite, minerals that can absorb caesium. Nine years after the disaster, the submerged sandbags have sucked up so much radiation that they now represent a deadly danger themselves.

Samples of zeolite removed from the bags contain caesium, producing huge amounts of radiation, while the sandbags are giving off up to four sieverts of radiation an hour. Fifteen minutes of exposure to this could cause haemorrhaging. After an hour, half of those exposed would eventually die as a result. The maximum lifetime recommended dose of radiation for humans is less than half a sievert.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which operates the plant, had intended to remove the contaminated water by the end of 2020. The complication caused by the sand means it will take three years longer, the latest delay to the decommissioning.

Tepco managers have admitted that the technology needed to finish the job does not exist and they do not have a full idea of how it will be achieved. Their stated goal of decommissioning by 2051 may be impossible, they said.

One of the biggest problems is the 170 tonnes of irradiated water coming out of the plant every day, much of it natural ground water that flows through the earth ­towards the sea, picking up radiation on the way. Tepco pumps it out and stores it in huge storage tanks, filtered of some, but not all, of its contaminants — 1.17 million tonnes so far. In two years, the storage space will run out.

The government wants to pour the water away, insisting that the diluting effect of the ­Pacific will render the radiation harmless, but it is opposed by North and South Korea and the local fishing industry, whose reputation has been ruined by the disaster.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s staggering costs to remove melted nuclear fuel from Fukushima’s crippled reactors

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Countries may use coronavirus crisis to rein in climate commitments: Japan a case in point

Campaigners attack Japan’s ‘shameful’ climate plans release

Proposals criticised amid fears countries may use coronavirus crisis to rein in commitments, Guardian,  Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent 30 Mar 20,  Japan has laid out its plans to tackle greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris agreement in the run-up to UN climate talks this year, becoming the first large economy to do so.

But its proposals were criticised by campaigners as grossly inadequate, amid fears the Covid-19 crisis could prompt countries to try to water down their climate commitments.

The UK, which will host the talks, hopes every country will produce renewed targets on curbing emissions and achieving net zero carbon by 2050.

New commitments are needed to achieve the Paris goals of holding temperature rises to no more than 2C, and ideally 1.5C, above pre-industrial levels, as on current national targets the world would far exceed those limits.

Japan’s carbon targets – known as its nationally determined contribution (NDC) in the UN jargon – as announced on Monday morning are almost unchanged from its commitments made in 2015 towards the Paris accord, however.

The country’s target of a 26% reduction in emissions by 2030, based on 2013 levels, is rated as “highly insufficient” by the Climate Action Tracker analysis, meaning that if all targets were at this level, temperature rises would exceed 3C.

The country, the world’s fifth biggest emitter and third biggest economy, is one of the only developed countries still building new coal-fired power stations, although there are signs it may hold back……

Campaigners fear the coronavirus pandemic will be seen by some countries as a way to weaken their commitment to the Paris accord and present less stringent targets instead of the strong cuts needed.

“Japan should not slow down climate actions even amid the Covid-19 global fights, and must revisit and strengthen this plan swiftly in order to be in line with the Paris agreement,” said Kimiko Hirata, the international director of the Kiko Network, a climate group in Japan……

Environmental regulations and climate commitments have come under attack in the context of the coronavirus crisis. Under Donald Trump’s administration in the US, the Environmental Protection Agency has rolled back key regulations including car efficiency standards. In the EU, carmakers wrote to the European commission last week to demand a loosening of requirements on them to cut carbon.

There is still scope for Japan to revise its targets. Other countries have yet to submit their detailed NDCs, but several – including the UK and the EU, and more than 70 smaller economies – made public their intention to reach net zero carbon by 2050, at last year’s UN climate talks in Madrid……. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/30/campaigners-attack-japan-shameful-climate-plans-release

 

March 31, 2020 Posted by | climate change, Japan | Leave a comment

2020 Olympics – Abe’s plan to help the nuclear industry has fallen through

Abe’s decision to host the Olympics in the first place, and to plan to start the torch relay in Fukushima, as mere pretense that all is well in the prefecture, despite widespread contamination that continues since 2011.

The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off in Japan.

the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and instead promoting nuclear power.

Efforts by Prime Minister Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that control nuclear and energy policy. The actions of the nuclear village is one of the factors responsible for the Fukushima accident.

Nuclear flame fizzles in Japan,  But leaders still cling to failing nuclear power

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the “nuclear village” hoped the Olympics would normalize Japan’s radiological aftermath. But the Fukushima effect has meant zero nuclear exports, leading the government to shore up the nuclear industry at home at the expense of renewables. Beyond Nuclear, By Cassandra Jeffery and M.V. Ramana   29 Mar 20, Last week, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to delay the 2020 Summer Olympic Games because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they will keep the Olympic flame burning in Fukushima Prefecture. The torch relay route was to have begun there, a poor decision, given the meltdown of multiple reactors in Fukushima nine years ago in March 2011.  While radiation levels may have declined since 2011, there are still hotspots in the prefecture, including at the sports complex where the torch relay would have begun and along the relay route.

The persistence of this contamination, and the economic fallout of the reactor accidents, should remind us of the hazardous nature of nuclear power. Simultaneously, changes in the economics of alternative sources of energy in the last decade invite us to reconsider how countries, including Japan, should generate electricity in the future….

opposition is evident in Japan too, where opinion polls show overwhelming lack of support for the government’s plans to restart nuclear plants that have been shut down after the Fukushima accidents.

One poll from February 2019 found 56 percent of respondents were opposed to resuming nuclear operations; only 32 percent in favour of resumption. Other polls show significant local opposition, one example coming out of the Miyagi Prefecture, where some local residents have filed an injunction to ban the Miyagi governor from approving a utility plan to restart a nearby reactor.

Even the Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, which aims to promote nuclear power, finds that only 17.3 percent of survey respondents prefer nuclear energy, with much larger majorities preferring solar, wind, and hydro power.

The costs of dealing with such accidents are immense. Estimates for the Fukushima disaster range from nearly $200 billion to over $600 billion. Estimates for the costs imposed by the Chernobyl accident amount to nearly $700 billion. In 2013, France’s nuclear safety institute estimated that a similar accident in France could end up costing $580 billion. In Japan, just the cost of bringing old nuclear power plants into compliance with post-Fukushima safety regulations has been estimated at $44.2 billion.

Even in the absence of accidents and additional safety features, nuclear power is already very expensive. For the United States, the Wall Street firm Lazard estimates an average cost of $155 per megawatt hour of nuclear electricity, more than thrice the corresponding estimates of around $40 per megawatt hour each for wind and solar energy. The latter costs have declined by around 70 to 90 percent in the last 10 years.

In the face of the high costs of nuclear power—economic, environmental, and public health—and overwhelming public opposition, it is puzzling that the Japanese government would persist in trying to restart nuclear power plants.

To explain his support for the technology, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claims that the country cannot do without nuclear power, especially in view of climate change concerns. The claim about the necessity of nuclear power makes little sense. Since 2011, the country has been generating only a fraction of the nuclear electricity it used to generate, and yet the lights have not gone off in Japan.

Further, starting in 2015, Japan’s total greenhouse gas emissions have fallen below the levels in 2011, because of “reduced energy consumption” and the increase in “low-carbon electricity.” The latter, in turn, is because of an increasing fraction of renewable energy in electricity generation, a factor that could play an important role in the future.

Some, including the Global Energy Network Institute and a group of analysts led by Stanford University’s Mark Jacobson, argue that Japan could be 100 percent powered by renewable energy. Regardless of whether Japan reaches that goal, there is little doubt that Japan could be expanding renewable energy, and that increased reliance on renewables makes economic and environmental sense.

Instead, the Abe government seems to be involved in lowering incentives for the development of solar energy, and instead promoting nuclear power. The government has also increased the financial assistance retainer for Tokyo Electric Power Company, the company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi plant from ¥9 trillion to ¥13.5 trillion. This amount is borrowed from banks and the interest costs on this retainer will be paid by Japanese taxpayers.

Efforts by Prime Minister Abe to support the failing and flailing nuclear sector in Japan are indicative of the significant political power wielded by the “nuclear village,” the network of power companies, regulators, bureaucrats and researchers that control nuclear and energy policy. The actions of the nuclear village is one of the factors responsible for the Fukushima accident.

Indeed, the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation’s Independent Investigation Commission, traced the accident to, among other things, the presence of “sweetheart relationships and revolving doors that connected the regulatory bodies and electric companies, academics, and other stakeholders in the nuclear community.” Such relationships also exist between institutions involved in energy planning and the nuclear community, which accounts for some of the reluctance on the part of Japan’s energy policy makers to let go of the nuclear dream.

Nuclear sweethearts aside, Prime Minister Abe has another problem; his economic agenda, dubbed “Abenomics” by many, involves exports “of nuclear components and technology, as well as conventional arms” as an important component. So far, despite many trips to various countries by Prime Minister Abe, Japan has yet to export any reactors in the last decade; a project with the most likely client, Turkey, collapsed because of high costs. Because Prime Minister Abe and the nuclear village sees the lack of sales as a problem, they seem to want to shore up the domestic nuclear industry and “prove” that Japan has fully recovered from the 2011 nuclear disaster. But, are the financial costs and the effort worth the risk?

It is not a stretch of the imagination to regard Abe’s decision to host the Olympics in the first place, and to plan to start the torch relay in Fukushima, as mere pretense that all is well in the prefecture, despite widespread contamination that continues since 2011. Restarting nuclear reactors or constructing new ones, should that ever happen, only increases the likelihood of more nuclear accidents in the future and raises the costs of electricity. This is especially irrational when alternative, less risky, sources of electricity have become far cheaper than nuclear energy……..https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/72759838/posts/2643325783

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Kansai Electric Power Co’s history of nuclear corruption

While the depth of the scandal has surprised many, stories of collusion and bribery in Fukui towns hosting Kepco’s plants are quite common and date back to the 1970s when the first power plants opened.

Naito, who died in 2018, claimed to have directed illicit cash payments to prime ministers and key politicians in the ruling and opposition parties between 1972 and 1990 in exchange for favorable legislation regarding nuclear power and electricity policies.

A closer look at Kansai Electric and its gift-giving scandal  https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/29/business/kansai-electric-gift-giving-scandal/#.XoEN-YgzbIU  BY ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER  OSAKA – Earlier this month, Kansai Electric Power Co. concluded that scores of its employees had received cash and gifts worth hundreds of millions of yen from an influential politician in a Fukui Prefecture town where the utility operates a nuclear power plant. The revelations by Kepco’s investigative panel once again showed the dark side of Japan’s nuclear industry.

What is Kepco?

Kepco is the major utility providing electric power to the Kansai region, including Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Hyogo, Shiga and Wakayama prefectures. With over 20,000 direct employees and 77 affiliated companies, it is one of Kansai’s largest and most influential corporations economically, but also politically. Kepco executives have long held high leadership positions in local business lobby groups such as the Kansai Economic Federation, which played a leading role in convincing local and national politicians, as well as the appropriate ministries in Tokyo, to approve and fund projects ranging from Kansai Airport to the 2025 Expo. Kepco’s largest shareholder is the city of Osaka, which owned about 7.3 percent of Kepco’s stock as of September 2019.

What’s the role of the Takahama plant?

Fukui Prefecture is home to 11 Kepco nuclear reactors at three plants. One of these is the Takahama plant, which hosts some of Japan’s oldest reactors. The No. 1 and 2 reactors are now over 40 years old but scheduled to be restarted later this year. The No. 3 and 4 reactors, which are 35 and 34 years old, are offline and currently being upgraded to better protect against terrorism threats. But construction is running behind schedule and the exact date of their restart is unclear.

In 2010, just before the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting nuclear disaster in Fukushima, nuclear power at Kepco’s three Fukui plants accounted for 51 percent of its electricity sources. That figure sat at 29 percent as of the end of the 2018 fiscal year.

What was the scandal all about? Continue reading

March 30, 2020 Posted by | Japan, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Olympic Torch Relay stopped – another blow to the nuclear propaganda about “Fukushima recovery”

Now Postponed, The Olympic Torch Relay Was To Bring Hope To Ravaged Fukushima, March 26, 2020, Heard on All Things Considered“………….This region was devastated nine years ago when the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history triggered a massive tsunami. The giant wave washed away nearly 20,000 people, including thousands in Fukushima. It also hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station right down the coast, causing a partial meltdown that sent plumes of radioactive particles for miles. The area has been trying to rebuild ever since.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe billed this year’s Olympics as the “recovery games,” hoping to highlight the massive cleanup efforts by the Japanese government along this coast. To drive that point home, the torch relay was supposed to start in Fukushima on Thursday, run by some of the people most affected by the events of 2011. The runners would weave the flame through the former nuclear exclusion zones.
Now both the Olympics and the torch relay are postponed due to the global spread of COVID-19, and Fukushima’s chance to have the world’s attention for a celebration instead of disaster is on hold.

Ueno, a 46-year-old wheat farmer, was supposed to run the torch on Thursday through his hometown of Minamisoma. His current home, down the street from the empty field he’s standing in, is one of the only buildings around. His old houseused to be here too…..

This part of Fukushima, in the area around the Daiichi power plant, is still suffering from high levels of radiation. Only a tiny fraction of the population has returned, most over the age of 60, and many streets still sit empty and deserted, left exactly as they were nine years ago tumbled by the earthquake and rotting. It’s not the same Fukushima that it was before the disaster. … https://www.npr.org/2020/03/26/821402324/now-postponed-the-olympic-torch-relay-was-to-bring-hope-to-ravaged-fukushima

March 28, 2020 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

12 Fukushima decontamination locations likely to leak radiation, in heavy rain

Heavy rain could cause decontamination waste leak http://www.newsonjapan.com/html/newsdesk/article/126578.php

NHK — MAR 18  Japan’s Environment Ministry says waste produced by decontamination work following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident could leak at 12 locations in case of torrential rain.

The ministry checked all the sites where the waste is kept after 91 bags were swept into rivers in Fukushima and Tochigi prefectures last year due to downpours caused by Typhoon Hagibis.

Of the 322 locations that are near rivers or in flood-prone areas, 12 sites in Fukushima Prefecture were found to be at risk of having bags of waste swept away or ruptured by mud flows.

The ministry plans to set up fences or move the waste to intermediate storage facilities to reduce the risk by the end of May this year.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi told reporters on Tuesday his ministry hopes to do the work as soon as possible because of the growing risk of sudden downpours in recent years.

March 28, 2020 Posted by | environment, Japan | Leave a comment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

Those 2020 Tokyo Olympics should never take place, if not a gigantic PR operation by PM Abe and its government in their efforts to whitewash and normalize the ongoing Fukushima disaster in the eyes of the whole world…

 

tepco_2020_olympicsBye-bye Tokyo 2020 radioactive-coronovirus Olympics

 

Report: Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed to 2021 due to coronavirus

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound tells USA Today “the Games are not going to start on July 24.”

March 23, 202

Huge numbers of sporting events have been canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. And now it looks like the granddaddy of global sporting events, the Tokyo Olympic Games, set for this summer, will join them. On Monday, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be postponed, likely to 2021.

“On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided,” Pound told USA Today. “The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know.” Details are yet to be worked out, the newspaper reported.

When asked if Pound was speaking officially for the IOC, the organization replied only that, “It is the right of every IOC member to interpret the decision of the IOC EB which was announced yesterday.”  The decision referred to is the IOC announcement that it will study different scenarios regarding the future of the 2020 Games. That statement goes on to say the group will finalize discussions within four weeks, and that cancelation is “not on the agenda.”

While the Olympics have been canceled in the past, for World War I and World War II, they have never been postponed to a different year.

Also on Monday, Reuters reported that Japan Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita said he was considering postponement, reflecting the most recent comments from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. US President Donald Trump tweeted that he will back whatever decision Abe makes: “We will be guided by the wishes of Prime Minister Abe of Japan.”

Even if the event were to take place as scheduled, Canadian and Australian athletes wouldn’t compete. On March 22, the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee announced that their teams won’t head to Tokyo and urged that competition be postponed for one year. The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board also unanimously agreed not to send a team and encouraged athletes to instead prepare for a summer 2021 event.

And on March 20, USA Swimming, the national governing body for competitive swimming, sent a letter to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee urging the group to postpone the Summer Games to 2021.

The virus came close to the Olympics on March 19, when it was announced that Tokyo 2020 Olympics chief Yoshiro Mori, 82, attended a March 10 meeting with Kozo Tashima, the deputy head of the Japanese Olympic Committee who later tested positive for coronavirus. Mori has no symptoms and hasn’t been tested. The men were seated about 10 meters (about 32 feet) apart.

The Olympics are huge, both in numbers of people involved, and in billions of dollars spent. More than 11,000 athletes from 206 nations are hoping to compete in 339 events. Many thousands more are planning to work in some part of the games, from food and souvenir vendors to hotel clerks to trainers and coaches. NBC had been set to broadcast the games in the US, even offering a dedicated streaming Olympics package for those who want to watch as much as possible, with no ads. And as evidenced by the fact that tickets sold out last July, thousands more were planning to watch the events, whether traveling from across town or across the planet.

The 1916 Summer Games were canceled due to World War I. The 1940 and 1944 Games, both winter and summer, were canceled due to World War II. (Japan was the country affected back then, too — the 1940 Games were set for Tokyo and Sapporo.) Other games have been affected by boycotts. By contrast, in 2016, the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, played out as scheduled despite scientists’ warnings about the Zika virus.

The next Olympics after Tokyo are the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, followed by the 2024 Paris Summer Games, and then the 2026 Winter Games in Milan and Cortina, Italy.

https://www.cnet.com/news/report-tokyo-2020-olympics-postponed-to-2021-due-to-coronavirus/?fbclid=IwAR30Cwk5A9Fux51OlK_jSJlS538PNHWQeDd8COtCtVZfvCmSQ4v5XHT0l4A#ftag=COS-05-10aaa0i

 

PM Abe says Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances

March 23, 202

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday this summer’s Tokyo Olympics cannot be held under current circumstances due to the new coronavirus pandemic, suggesting for the first time that the games may have to be postponed.

“If I’m asked whether we can hold the Olympics at this point in time, I would have to say that the world is not in such a condition,” Abe told a parliamentary session, adding he hopes to hold talks with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach over the issue.

“It’s important that not only our country but also all the other participating countries can take part in the games fully prepared,” Abe said.

The premier’s comments came a day after the IOC said it will study alternative plans for the Tokyo Olympics, scheduled to open on July 24, amid the global outbreak, and make an assessment within the next four weeks.

The Japanese government will soon tell the IOC it will accept a postponement if the organization decides on it as a precaution against the coronavirus, a source familiar with the plan said.

Tokyo Olympic organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori said he supports the IOC’s decision to review existing plans, adding representatives from Japan and the IOC will hold discussions to examine possible scenarios closely.

“Japan is in a critical state, and the situations in the United States and Europe have been abnormal,” Mori said. “We are not so foolish as to say we will do it under our first (plan).”

Abe, who has previously said he aims to hold the major sporting event in its “complete form,” told the parliamentary session, “If it is difficult to hold the games in such a way, we have to decide to postpone it, giving top priority to (the health of the) athletes.”

“Although the IOC will make the final decision (on the matter), we are of the same view that cancellation is not an option,” Abe said while vowing to work closely with the IOC and the Tokyo metropolitan government.

The IOC on Sunday officially admitted the possibility of pushing back the quadrennial event, saying it will examine various scenarios, adding that it will finalize discussions “within the next four weeks.”

“These scenarios relate to modifying existing operational plans for the games to go ahead on 24 July 2020, and also for changes to the start date of the games,” the IOC said in a statement.

Speaking at a press conference, organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said reviewing the possibilities, including postponement, is “not easy” and the organizers are open to “all options.”

Mori said some of the challenges organizers will face in terms of postponement include handling the costs of delaying and the availability of venues.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike told reporters, “(The IOC) clearly stated that cancellation will not happen, and I am glad to share that view.”

“There are lots of issues, but I would like to discuss possible scenarios over the next four weeks with the IOC and the organizing committee,” she said. “The Tokyo Games now have another goal, to defeat the novel coronavirus.”

Mori said local organizers will decide in the coming days whether to go ahead with the opening of the domestic leg of the torch relay in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday, as developments surrounding the pandemic have been changing rapidly.

Mori added that Bach told him that the Japanese organizers have the authority to make decisions about the domestic leg of the torch relay.

Members of the organizing committee revealed Monday they may drastically reduce the scale of the torch relay, including canceling the participation of members of the public.

Under modified plans, the Olympic flame may be carried by car in the initial stages of the relay.

Muto and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto each said Monday the relay will proceed as planned for the moment.

Mori also revealed that Abe is now reluctant to attend the kick-off ceremony since the Japanese government has been requesting people refrain from holding large events to prevent the spread of the virus.

Olympic torchbearers in Japan expressed concerns over the IOC’s new direction.

“Both runners and spectators of the relay would be half-hearted. I wonder whether they will let us run again if (the sporting event) is postponed,” said 66-year-old Yumiko Nishimoto, who is scheduled to run in Fukushima on Thursday as one of the 10,000 torchbearers in Japan.

The 121-day Japanese leg is scheduled to kick off at the J-Village soccer training center, which served as a frontline base of operations to battle the 2011 nuclear crisis caused by the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster that year.

A decision on postponement “should be made before the torch relay starts,” Nishimoto said. “I have mixed feelings as I feel that we are being messed around.”

The global coronavirus pandemic has cast a cloud over the hosting of the Tokyo Olympics from July 24 to Aug. 9 and the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sep. 6. In recent days, national Olympic committees in Brazil, Norway and the Netherlands have called for postponements.

Japanese government officials have repeatedly said preparations are under way for the games to go ahead as scheduled, and the flame for the Olympics arrived on Friday in Japan.

During a videoconference with other leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations earlier in the month, Abe secured support for holding “complete” games, meaning they should be held with spectators and without any downsizing.

“I think U.S. President (Donald) Trump and other G-7 leaders will support my decision,” Abe said in the parliamentary session.


https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/03/c6332013fc1d-urgent-abe-hints-at-possibility-of-postponing-tokyo-olympics.html

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Mounting Tokyo 2020 postponement calls put pressure on defiant Olympic chiefs

hjhlkjmlkIOC President Thomas Bach insists that it is too early for the Olympics to be postponed, as the start is four months away

 

March 22, 2020

PARIS: Pressure mounted on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games on Saturday (Mar 21) after the powerful US track and field federation urged this summer’s event be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

USA Track and Field became the latest influential sports body to ask for the Games to be called off after its head Max Siegel “respectfully requested” in a letter that the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) “advocate … for the postponement of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo”.

USOPC had said it was too soon to axe the Jul 24 to Aug 9 Games, much like International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach, who said that it would be “premature” to make such a big decision.

“The right and responsible thing to do is to prioritise everyone’s health and safety and appropriately recognise the toll this difficult situation has, and continues to take, on our athletes and their Olympic Games preparations,” wrote Siegel.

USATF joined a growing chorus of calls from sports organisations to push back the Olympics, a day after the country’s swimming federation asked USOPC to back a postponement until 2021.

“We urge the USOPC, as a leader within the Olympic Movement, to use its voice and speak up for the athletes,” USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey said in a letter.

That request for a delay was echoed on Saturday by France’s swimming federation which said that the Games could not be organised properly in the “current context”.

World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told AFP Saturday that the sporting world was in “uncharted territory”.

“We have another meeting early next week to discuss the work, given the number of athletes who are struggling to train in various countries due to measures put in place to reduce the spread of the coronavirus,” said Coe.

“I don’t think we should have the Olympic Games at all costs, certainly not at the cost of athlete safety and a decision on the Olympic Games may become very obvious very quickly in the coming days and weeks.

“The issue of competition fairness is paramount. We are all managing the situation day by day and increasingly hour by hour.”

The Norwegian Olympic Committee (NOC) quickly followed, saying that it had sent a letter to the IOC on Friday, motivated in part by a Norwegian government ban on organised sports activities which had created “a very challenging time for the sports movement in Norway”.

“Our clear recommendation is that the Olympic Games in Tokyo shall not take place before the COVID-19 situation is under firm control on a global scale,” the NOC said in the letter.

IOC “PUTTING US IN DANGER”

The new chairman of the United Kingdom’s athletics governing body also questioned the need to hold the Olympics this summer given the uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19, which has now killed over 12,000 people worldwide according to an AFP tally.

“To leave it where it is is creating so much pressure in the system. It now has to be addressed,” head of UK Athletics Nic Coward told the BBC.

On Friday, Bach defended the IOC’s refusal to cancel the Olympics by saying that the Games were further away than other shelved events, such as football’s European Championship which was due to start in mid-June and has been moved to 2021.

“We are four-and-a-half months away from the Games,” Bach told the New York Times.

“For us, (postponement) would not be responsible now.”

Athletes lashed out at IOC advice to continue training “as best they can”, with Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi accusing the body of “putting us in danger”.

“The IOC wants us to keep risking our health, our family’s health and public health to train every day?” asked Stefanidi.

World champion fencer Race Imboden of the United States said on Twitter that he was “worried” about the prospect of the Olympics going ahead.

“We keep being told the Olympic Games are happening. Starting to realise it’s more important to have the games go on than the athletes be prepared or mentally healthy.”

But USOPC chairwoman Susanne Lyons insisted on Friday that organisers had time on their side.

“We don’t have to make a decision. Our games are not next week, or two weeks from now. They’re four months from now,” Lyons said.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/mounting-tokyo-2020-postponement-calls-put-pressure-on-defiant-olympic-chiefs-12564066?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Thousands flock to see Olympic flame in Japan despite COVID-19 fears

If you want a definition of denial, this is it. “More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.” Yes, this despite covid-19, and despite the fact that, incredibly, the Abe government is only “considering” not holding the Olympics, a decision that should have been taken months before the outbreak, given the level of radiological contamination in some regions, lingering on long after the March 2011 nuclear disaster. 

 

ghjlklmlTens of thousands queued at Sendai station to see the Olympic flame

 

March 22, 2020

SENDAI: Tens of thousands of people flocked to a cauldron with the Olympic flame in northeastern Japan over the weekend despite concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flame arrived in Japan to a scaled-down welcoming ceremony on Friday as doubts grew over whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will go ahead on schedule as the deadly virus causes chaos around the world.

The pandemic has already shredded the global sports calendar, with top sports leagues suspended and major tournaments postponed.

More than 50,000 people on Saturday (Mar 21) queued to watch the flame displayed at Sendai station in Miyagi, chosen as part of the “Recovery Olympics” to showcase the region’s revival after the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.

Some had to stay in a 500m queue for several hours, local media said.

Many of them wore masks as they took pictures with the cherry blossom-shaped cauldron.

“I queued for three hours but watching the Olympic flame was greatly encouraging,” a 70-year-old woman told public broadcaster NHK.

 

jkjmmùOrganisers are under pressure to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

But organisers, concerned about the bigger-than-expected gathering, have warned the viewing event could be suspended if a crowd becomes “extremely dense”, local media reported.

The nationwide torch relay begins on Mar 26, starting from the J-Village sports complex in Fukushima that was used as a base for workers during the 2011 nuclear disaster.

But organisers have been forced to scale back the relay, closing daily ceremonies to the public and urging spectators to “avoid forming crowds” along the route.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/sport/olympics-flame-covid-19-crowds-tokyo-2020-japan-12564712?fbclid=IwAR1AOdgsAiK0W_gqaJ6CWMQqRCJnxrtLNM9WCTTF0zLWYvpsywDi1NBRJ4M

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo 2020 Olympics on their way to be postponed…

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Canada and Australia will not send athletes to Tokyo Olympics

March 23, 2020

(CNN)Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the risks associated with the coronavirus outbreak, the Olympic committees for both countries said in separate statements.

Both countries’ Olympic committees also are calling for the Games to be postponed until 2021.

“While we recognize the inherent complexities around a postponement, nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community,” the Canadian Olympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee said in a joint statement Sunday. “This is not solely about athlete health — it is about public health.”

The Australian Olympic Committee’s executive board met by teleconference Monday and unanimously agreed that an Australian Olympic team could not be assembled given the changing circumstances across the world, the committee said in a statement.

The committee also said “our athletes now need to prioritise their own health and of those around them, and to be able to return to the families.”

“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” said Ian Chesterman, Australian Team Chef de Mission for Tokyo. “Our athletes have been magnificent in their positive attitude to training and preparing, but the stress and uncertainty has been extremely challenging for them.”

Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll said athletes should prepare for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

“The athletes desperately want to go to the games…but they also take onboard their own personal health,” Carroll told reporters in Sydney on Monday. “We need to give our athletes that certainty and that’s what we’ve done.”

IOC says its not canceling the Olympics

The committees’ decisions came hours after International Olympic Committee’s executive board said it is considering postponing — but not canceling — this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IOC board said it is considering several options to deal with the ongoing outbreak, including modifying plans to allow the 2020 Tokyo Games to begin on schedule on July 24 or changing the start date for the Games.

The IOC executive board ruled out canceling the Games, saying it would “destroy the Olympic dream of 11,000 athletes” and all those who support them, according to a letter to athletes from IOC President Thomas Bach.

The Canadian statement thanked the IOC for saying it would not cancel the games, saying the IOC appreciates the “the importance of accelerating its decision-making regarding a possible postponement.”

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that a decision to postpone the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics may be needed if the Games cannot be held in a complete form.

Abe made the remark during a parliamentary session Monday after the IOC announced Sunday that the group has decided to step up scenario-planning for the 2020 Tokyo Games in reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

IOC faces more pressure to postpone games

The IOC has faced increasing pressure to postpone the Games as people across the world have gotten sick and died from Covid-19. Tracks, gyms and public spaces are closed in much of the world and major qualifying events have been canceled.

Japan Olympic Committee member Kaori Yamaguchi broke ranks on Friday, saying the Games should be postponed because some athletes had been unable to train.

The heads of USA Swimming and USA Track and Field both called for the Olympics to be postponed to 2021 over the weekend.

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/03/22/americas/canada-no-athletes-tokyo-olympics/index.html?fbclid=IwAR14fsfCQOEkjXJeFv5zPAxXJ2jaT4WEAXagx9deUtwX-92STAsA7K4ScjY

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

IOC must face coronavirus reality and postpone 2020 Olympics

ghgkjllNew York Post back page

 

March 22, 2020

We are all, all of us, going through various stages of denial where sports are concerned. We are entering Week 3 of our games-free world and we are all here to report that the sun still comes up every morning, it still sets every evening, and every single time they replay the Duke-Kentucky game from 1992, Rick Pitino still doesn’t guard the inbounds pass.

(Perhaps he was distracted by the Iona job 28 years in his future.)

There is a part of us, all of us, that has to beat down the delusional optimist lurking inside. Logically, we know that it’ll be awhile before we see a live sporting event, but even as we start to dream of ordering $12 Heinekens at a ballpark, we turn on the television and there is Gov. Cuomo, saying plainly of COVID-19: “It’s going to work its way through society. But it’s going to be four months, six months, nine months. We’re in that range. Nobody has a crystal ball, no one can tell you.”

Four months. Six months. Nine months.

It’s hard for that potential reality to sink in.

It’s exponentially more fun to see Bill James, the godfather of modern baseball analysis, post on Twitter as he did this weekend: “Pick the day on which you think the major-league baseball season will begin. My pick: May 15.”

(Unless he meant May 15, 2021. That seems more reasonable.)

Of course James, like the rest of us, is a fan. We are allowed our spasms of optimism, even when that bleeds into delusion. There is, after all, nothing rational about living and dying with a hockey team; why should there be anything rational about wanting to SEE a hockey game?

It’s different when you’re talking about the people who run things. We saw a lot of that two weeks ago, when the folks who run sports leagues and basketball tournaments and other such operations came to slow, deliberate and ultimately regret-filled (but proper) decisions to shut things down. The absurdity of that St. John’s-Creighton game going on for a half is something the Big East, specifically commissioner Val Ackerman, will have to answer to in time, when we hold public and private inquests on how all of this went down.

And now there is the International Olympic Committee, which should already have reached the sad conclusion that the upcoming Tokyo Games should be, at least, postponed a year. The U.S. swimming and track and field committees have already called for that. So has a growing number of nations.

Forget the dubious possibility that the world will feel properly scrubbed and sanitized by July 24, when the parade of nations and 11,000 athletes are scheduled to march into Olympic Stadium for the Opening Ceremonies. Let’s say the optimists among us prevail, and we start seeing live sports again sometime in late June or early July.

Even that makes the notion of an on-time start silly. Only 4,000 of those 11,000 athletes have properly qualified for the Games. The trials that would determine the competitors have largely been postponed already, or are certain to be. Travel restrictions are fluid, at best. The Olympics, in optimal times, are a logistical quagmire; amid a global pandemic they would be catastrophic.

Yet the IOC reiterated Sunday that it will wait as long as four weeks before deciding what to do about the Games, with postponement until 2021 the likeliest alternative. And even that concession was only reached after the mounting pressures of local Olympic committees begging the IOC to do the right thing — but before the Canadian and Australian Olympic and Paralympic committees declared they simply won’t send contingents to Tokyo this year, in the strongest show of force — and common sense — yet.

Sometimes, the right thing is simply obvious. It is here. The Olympics, after all, have mostly known their place in world affairs. The 1916 Summer Games were canceled because of World War I, and both the summer and winter games of 1940 and ’44 were canceled due to World War II. The IOC should probably have halted the ’72 Games after terrorists bloodied the Munich Olympiad, but it has had to answer harsh questions about that for 48 years, and rightly so.

Now?

Look, this falls in line with everything else. Everything about our world stinks right now, from our daily small sacrifices (staying home, staying away from friends, honoring quarantines and social distance) to our greater concerns, the workers losing their jobs, the victims felled by this insipid virus, the heroic doctors and nurses and EMTs fighting it on the front lines.

We grapple with these things every day. We bargain in our brains how to cope. It stinks to go through that every day. But we do, all of us, every day. The IOC must do the same, and be quick about it, and smart about it.

Delusion in these times is neither a good strategy nor a good look.

https://nypost.com/2020/03/22/ioc-delusional-by-ignoring-2020-olympics-coronavirus-fate/?fbclid=IwAR1jQ95_ZwsulenegjwDFsMCSUXG5-GCHEWwh_Jg6RwTfCT65v1ejCn3MOU

 

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Crowds form at Olympic torch event in Japan despite coronavirus caution

ghjlklmlPeople wear protective face masks following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease as they try to watch the Olympic cauldron during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic’s Flame of Recovery tour at Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture on Friday

 

March 20, 2020

ISHINOMAKI (Reuters) An Olympic torch event in Japan drew hundreds of spectators on the day of the flame’s arrival on Friday, creating the type of packed gathering the government and Tokyo 2020 organizers have warned against to prevent coronavirus from spreading further.

About 500 people gathered in a jostling crowd to look at the flame and popular comedians taking part in a ceremony in Ishinomaki, 335 km north of Tokyo.

The Greek part of the torch relay began last week, but a day later the remainder was canceled to avoid attracting crowds.

It is not a good decision [to come here] but I am not sure if I will get another chance to see the cauldron, Ishinomaki resident and teacher Kiyotake Goto, 44, told Reuters.

Earlier in the day, a plane carrying the torch from Greece arrived at Japan Air Self-Defence Force Matsushima airbase, which was devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

No spectators were present for the arrival ceremony at the base, where officials pledged the Tokyo 2020 Games will proceed despite mounting pressure to halt the world’s biggest sporting event due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We originally planned to have children here to welcome the flame. But, prioritizing their safety, we’ve decided to do without them, Tokyo 2020 chief Yoshiro Mori said.

That was an agonizing decision … We will do our utmost in preparing for a safe and secure event, said Mori, a former prime minister.

Organizers have repeatedly said the Games, due to run from July 24 to Aug. 9, will go ahead, but as the rapid spread of the virus brings the sports world to a virtual standstill, fears are growing that the Olympics may be postponed or canceled.

I think it’s impossible [to hold the Games]. It’ll be a global issue if the virus spreads even further, Koichiro Maeda, a 55-year-old company employee, told Reuters in downtown Tokyo.

The respiratory disease, which emerged in China late last year, has killed more than 10,000 people worldwide.

Japan is grappling with pressure to avoid a health crisis among 600,000 expected overseas spectators and athletes at an event that could see $3 billion in sponsorships and at least $12 billion spent on preparations evaporate.

The plane with the torch arrived nearly empty after the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee decided not to send a high-level delegation that was originally to have included Mori and Olympics minister Seiko Hashimoto.

This is a tough time. I hope the torch relay will bring people vigor and hope, Saori Yoshida, three-times gold-medal winning wrestler, told the welcome ceremony.

The flame will travel round the Tohoku region hit by the 2011 tsunami and earthquake, in what organizers call a recovery flame tour before the official kick-off ceremony in Fukushima on March 26.

Organizers have urged the public not to crowd the relay route, canceling many events along the way and restricting public access to others. Runners and staff will have their temperatures and health monitored, organizers said.

Some athletes, including reigning Olympic pole vault champion Katerina Stefanidi, said the International Olympic Committee’s decision to go ahead was putting their health at risk when entire countries have shut down to curb the virus.

The torch relay will begin at J-Village, a soccer training center in Fukushima that served as an operations base for workers who battled triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the 2011 tsunami.

It is due to pass many of Japan’s most famous landmarks over a 121-day journey to Tokyo’s Olympic stadium, including Mount Fuji, Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park and Kumamoto Castle.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2020-flame-arrival/crowds-form-at-olympic-torch-event-in-japan-despite-coronavirus-caution-idUSKBN2163LH

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment