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Reconstruction Olympics?

August 10, 2018



Tokyo's road to 'Reconstruction Olympics' not an easy one





TOKYO -- Showcasing Japan's reconstruction from the devastating earthquake in 2011 to the world is one of the main themes of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, but displaying this is no easy task.

Two years ahead of the Tokyo Games, the organizing committee is making additional efforts to emphasize the reconstruction aspect of the global athletic event. In recent weeks, the committee announced Fukushima Prefecture, which was hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis, as the starting point for the Olympic torch relay. It also revealed that the first event of the Games, a softball match involving Japan, will be held at the Azuma ballpark in the city of Fukushima on July 22, 2020, two days before the official start of the 2020 Games. The ballpark hosted a Japan-U.S. softball match in June this year, attracting some 7,000 spectators.


Holding events and competitions is one thing, but conveying the message of the massive damage caused by the quake, subsequent tsunami and triple core meltdowns at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant that forced hundreds of thousands of residents to flee, is another. Organizers are busy discussing how to present the information to athletes and reporters visiting from overseas.


The organizing committee plans to set up a "reconstruction support booth" inside the main press center for international visitors as well as the athletes' village and display images of devastation and reconstruction using cutting-edge equipment.


But some in the committee are worried that footage of huge tsunami engulfing thousands of houses or of areas left abandoned following the evacuation of residents caused by the nuclear accident may have some adverse effects on viewers.


A committee official in charge of the presentation said, "I want people to know what happened back then, but the images might prove to be very shocking to some and affect competition." Food items produced in areas hit by the disaster will be served at the athletes' village, but this may fuel negative rumors about food safety rather than dispel them.


In early September, the organizing committee plans to hold the first briefing targeting the international media, and explain the status of preparations. Another plan is also being considered for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to invite journalists from overseas to tour disaster-affected areas in the Tohoku region in northern Japan and show them competition venues and reconstruction efforts. These proposals are designed in part to judge how the foreign media will report on those areas.


Tokyo was selected as the host city for the 2020 Games in September 2013 at a session of the International Olympic Committee. At that time, the international media emphasized concerns about leaking radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in his speech at the meeting, assured that the situation was "under control," helping Tokyo to win enough support to be chosen as the host venue. The 2020 Tokyo Games has come to shoulder a responsibility to show to the world that areas affected by the 2011 disaster have mostly been restored.


The Olympics always show the reality of the host city and country to the world. During the 2016 Rio Games, the situation of poor neighborhoods in the city was reported on globally. The organizers in Tokyo are trying to figure out what needs to be done to get the actual situation in disaster-hit areas reported on accurately during the Olympics and Paralympics.

(Japanese original by Tadashi Murakami, Sports News Department)


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