TOKYO, March 17 (Xinhua) — Representatives from the organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics said here Friday that the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima Prefecture would be used as an additional venue for baseball and softball events during the 2020 Games.
In an effort to support areas in Japan hardest-hit by the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March 2011, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) approved the use of the 30,000-seater Azuma Stadium, in Fukushima City, the organizers said.
The announcement came after the IOC agreed to the proposal earlier Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The 31-year-old Azuma Stadium in Japan’s northeast, which will now have to be renovated, won unanimous approval by the committee ahead of two other stadiums in Fukushima, including the Kaiseizan Stadium in Koriyama and the Iwaki Green Stadium.
The stadium will likely be used for Japan’s opening games, officials here said. They added that the location of the events is hoped to ensure the plight of the people of Fukushima remains in the international spotlight, as well as give hope to and encourage the people who live in the disaster-hit prefecture.
According to government statistics, around 150,000 people were displaced as a result of the multiple meltdowns, which took place at the Daiichi plant following an earthquake-triggered tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The ongoing disaster at the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), remains the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.
Intense lobbying finally succeeded in getting approval for the 2020 Olympics baseball and softball events to take place in Fukushima prefecture, once more proving that economic reconstruction and pro-nuclear propaganda are more important priorities for the Japanese government than the health protection of anyone.
Nuclear-hit Fukushima gets nod for 2020 baseball
Nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima won formal approval to host baseball during the Tokyo Olympics on Friday — and may have the honour of putting on the opening game.
Chief organiser Yoshiro Mori said the International Olympic Committee’s executive board had agreed to hold baseball and softball in Fukushima at a meeting in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The choice of Fukushima comes after the prefecture was hit six years ago by the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, some of whom are still unable to return home.
“It’s the Tokyo Games but at least one game, probably the opening game, will go to Fukushima stadium,” Mori told reporters in Pyeongchang, venue for next year’s Winter Olympics.
“That was the proposal… and everybody agreed.”
The choice of baseball is significant as it is Japan’s most popular sport and will be closely watched by domestic fans when it returns to the Olympic schedule in 2020.
World Baseball Softball Confederation chief Riccardo Fraccari gave the Fukushima move his blessing, calling it a “tremendous honour and a duty” in a statement issued by Tokyo 2020 organisers.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident was triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which devastated a large swathe of northeastern Japan, leaving about 18,500 people dead or missing.
“Tokyo 2020 is a showcase of the recovery and reconstruction of Japan from the disaster, March 11,” Mori said.
“So in many ways we would like to give encouragement and hope to the people, especially in the affected area.”
Among similar efforts, the Olympic football tournament will hold preliminary games in Sendai, while the 2019 Rugby World Cup will take in Kamaishi — both cities in areas affected by the 2011 disaster.
While no deaths have been officially attributed to radiation exposure, some evacuees are concerned the government is moving too fast to deem closed-off areas safe to inhabit.
Government evacuation orders for some 70 percent of the originally closed off areas will be lifted by April 1, except for certain towns near the battered facility, and authorities are encouraging evacuees to return.
But Tokyo Electric Power Co, the nuclear plant operator, and the government are facing a four-decade task of cleaning up and decommissioning the facility.
The Olympic baseball and softball will be held in the Azuma stadium, which will be refurbished at the expense of the local authorities, Mori said
Anger as Fukushima to host Olympic events during Tokyo 2020 Games
The decision to hold baseball and softball matches in the city of Fukushima as part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games has been criticised as a cynical manoeuvre by the Japanese government to convince the world that the 2011 nuclear crisis is over.
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced on Friday that the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium will host softball and baseball matches during the Games.
Venues in Tokyo will host the majority of the sporting events, which will take place nine years after a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off Tohoku, triggering a tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people and the melt-down of three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, which is less than 50 miles from Fukushima City.
In a statement, the committee said it believes that “the hosting of events in Fukushima will support recovery efforts in the overall Tohoku region.
“Matches played in the Tohoku region will be further evidence of Tokyo 2020’s commitment to bring sporting events to the recovering areas and will demonstrate the power of sport”, it added.
The statement makes no mention of ongoing efforts at the Fukushima plant to bring the reactors under control and recover the nuclear fuel that has escaped from containment vessels. Authorities estimate it will take 40 years for the site to be rendered safe.
Work is also continuing to decontaminate areas that were beneath the nuclear plume immediately after the accident. According to government figures, around 120,000 people are still not able to return to their homes because of the disaster.
“It’s fine for athletes and spectators to go to Fukushima for a couple of days to compete, but the Japanese government is using this to claim that everything is back to normal and that he evacuees should go back to their homes”, said Aileen Mioko-Smith, an anti-nuclear campaigner with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan.
“It’s unconscionable”, she told The Telegraph. “To tell people that because the Games are being held in Fukushima that it is perfectly safe for people to go back to their homes, for farmers to go back into their fields, for children to play in the open air is just wrong”.
Fukushima to host Tokyo Olympics events to help recovery from nuclear disaster
Some baseball and softball events will be held about 70km from nuclear power plant that suffered triple meltdown in 2011
Fukushima has been chosen to host baseball and softball matches at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, organisers said on Friday, a move they hope will boost the region’s recovery from the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
Azuma baseball stadium, about 70km north-west of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, will host at least one baseball game – possibly the opening match – and one or more softball fixtures, according to Yoshiro Mori, the 2020 organising committee president.
“By hosting Olympic baseball and softball events, Fukushima will have a great platform to show the world the extent of its recovery in the 10 years since the disaster,” Mori said in a statement.
“It will also be a wonderful chance for us to show our gratitude towards those who assisted in the region’s reconstruction. And I’m sure the people of Fukushima are also looking forward very much to seeing Olympics events hosted there.”
Mori said the “fantastic idea” to hold baseball and softball matches in the affected area had originated in a meeting between the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, in October last year.
Two months later, however, the IOC initially declined to add Azuma to the main baseball venue in Yokohama.
Riccardo Fraccari, the president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, welcomed the IOC’s change of heart, describing it as a “great step” that would to “inspire hope and highlight the regeneration in Fukushima”.
He added: “It is a tremendous honour and a duty we take very seriously to be a part of something so meaningful – to serve the Olympic movement and to use the power of sport to shape a better world.”
The Fukushima prefectural government has offered to cover the costs of the refurbishment and renovation work needed to bring the 30,000-seat stadium up to Olympic standards, according to organisers.
Miyagi prefecture, where almost 11,000 people died in the March 2011 triple disaster along Japan’s north-east coast, will host preliminary matches in the 2020 football competition.
No evacuation order has ever been in place in the part of Fukushima prefecture where the baseball stadium is located. The Azuma sports park complex served as an evacuation centre for people fleeing radiation caused by the triple meltdown triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.
Nuclear power officials in Japan insist the 40-year effort to decommission Fukushima Daiichi, including the storage of nuclear waste, will not affect people visiting the region to attend Olympics events.
The IOC’s executive board, which is meeting this week in Pyeongchang, South Korea – the host of next year’s Winter Olympics – is expected to receive an update on the golf venue for 2020, which has come under pressure to change its discriminatory membership policy. Kasumigaseki Country Club, a private golf course in Saitama prefecture, north-west of Tokyo, forbids women from becoming full members and from playing on Sundays.
Last month, the IOC’s vice-president, John Coates, said organisers would have to find another venue if the club refused to drop its restrictions on female players.
Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori (left) shakes hands with Yoshiro Mori, who heads the 2020 Tokyo Olympic organizing committee Wednesday in Tokyo, as the committee approved a plan to host baseball and softball games in the prefecture.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizers on Wednesday gave the green light for disaster-affected Fukushima Prefecture to host baseball and softball games.
Three cities — Fukushima, Koriyama and Iwaki — are under consideration to stage part of the competition as the two sports return to the Olympic program after an absence of 12 years.
Riccardo Fraccari, president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, will visit Japan next week to inspect the venues. The International Olympic Committee will make the final decision when it holds its executive board meeting from Dec. 6 to 8.
“We want to emphasize this as a ‘recovery games’ and we want to work together with everyone to move it forward,” said 2020 executive board member Toshiaki Endo.
“These Olympics and Paralympics are not just for Tokyo but for the whole of Japan. We only have 1,353 days left, so we need everyone to make an effort so we can put on a fantastic event.”
IOC President Thomas Bach floated the idea of hosting baseball and softball games in Fukushima during a visit to Tokyo last month to take part in the World Forum on Sport and Culture.
“I felt that President Bach had a strong feeling toward Fukushima when he came here,” said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori. “The idea of a ‘recovery games’ is once again in the spotlight and people are thinking carefully about how that can be achieved.
“It can show the courage of Fukushima Prefecture and the Tohoku region, and on a wider scale Kumamoto and Tottori — places that are working hard to recover from disaster.”
The Yomiuri Giants professional baseball team occasionally hosts Nippon Professional Baseball games at all three venues. Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium and Iwaki Green Stadium both have capacities of 30,000, while the older Koriyama Kaiseizan Baseball Stadium holds 18,200.
Neighboring Miyagi Prefecture is hoping to stage rowing and canoe sprint events as a result of a cost-cutting review currently being undertaken by the IOC, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Tokyo 2020 organizers and the national government.
“Miyagi Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture and Fukushima Prefecture all suffered a lot of damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake,” said Uchibori.
“These three prefectures have a close bond and always work together. We want to form a movement. We want to show our appreciation to people and get people excited about the Tokyo Olympics. I’d like to consult with my fellow governors.”
Uchibori also said he would like his prefecture to host other Olympic-related events such as training camps and a section of the torch relay.
Baseball and softball were voted back onto the Olympic program as a joint bid at an IOC session in Rio de Janeiro in August ahead of the Summer Games. The format of the competitions has yet to be decided.
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