Tokyo 2020 OKs base­ball games in Fukushima

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Tokyo 2020 Olympics or­gan­is­ers yes­ter­day ap­proved a plan to hold part of base­ball’s qual­i­fy­ing rounds in the disas­ter-hit Fukushima re­gion to sup­port its re­cov­ery from the 2011 tsunami and nu­clear ac­ci­dent. The or­gan­is­ing com­mit­tee “would like to con­trib­ute” to the quake-hit re­gion, spokes­woman Hikariko Ono said at a press con­fer­ence. “None of the board mem­bers voiced their ob­jec­tion,” she said.

The move still has to be for­mally ap­proved by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC), with a fi­nal de­ci­sion ex­pected some­time in De­cem­ber, Tokyo 2020 spokesman Tet­suo Ogura told AFP ear­lier in the day.

The tsunami, trig­gered by a mas­sive un­der­sea quake on March 11, 2011, left more than 18,500 peo­ple dead or miss­ing and swamped the emer­gency power sup­plies at the Fukushima nu­clear plant, send­ing its re­ac­tors into melt­down as cool­ing sys­tems failed.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple evac­u­ated their homes and farms at the time. The Ja­panese govern­ment has been work­ing to re­build the re­gion but some ar­eas near the crip­pled plant re­main un­in­hab­it­able be­cause of ra­di­a­tion dan­gers.

Fukushima has two base­ball sta­di­ums with a ca­pac­ity of 30,000 each, lo­cated dozens of kilo­me­tres away from the “dif­fi­cultto-return zone” des­ig­nated by the govern­ment. Tokyo 2020’s de­ci­sion comes af­ter IOC Pres­i­dent Thomas Bach met last month with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe and said the com­mit­tee was con­sid­er­ing the plan as an op­tion.

It would “con­trib­ute to the re­gen­er­a­tion of the area... as well as show­ing to the world by 2020 how this re­gen­er­a­tion is mak­ing progress,” Bach said.

The ap­proval of the plan comes af­ter ex­perts warned the to­tal Games bud­get could hit an eye-wa­ter­ing $30 bil­lion-four times the ini­tial es­ti­mate and al­most triple that of the 2012 Lon­don Olympics. Tokyo metropoli­tan of­fi­cials, led by Gover­nor Yuriko Koike, are pur­su­ing cheaper op­tions, such as re­lo­cat­ing the ca­noe­ing and rowing events while scal­ing back plans for a new swim­ming venue. Last week, IOC ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Christophe Dubi said that the rowing and ca­noe­ing could take place in Miyagi pre­fec­ture, also part of the re­gion hit hard­est by the 2011 disas­ter. —AFP

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