Tokyo 2020 President Yoshirō Mori has vowed to ensure the Olympic and Paralympic Games Torch Relay visits a number of disaster-hit areas across Japan.
Mori, a former Japanese Prime Minister, also hinted that the Olympic Cauldron from the Games in the capital city may find its final resting place in a region hit by tragedy during a keynote speech at the World Forum on Sport and Culture here today.
It comes after International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzō Abe agreed that Fukushima, which was devastated after being struck by one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the country in 2011, should host events at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The area was decimated when an earthquake and tsunami caused a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with over 16,000 people losing their lives.
Bach reiterated these claims today when he addressed the audience here, describing holding baseball and softball in Fukushima as “one plausible option.”
Back in March, then Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo claimed preliminary matches could be staged in the Prefecture, located around 240 kilometers away from Tokyo.
“This is just one option and we are exploring additional ones as well,” Bach said today.
“It is my sincere hope that through this initiative we can contribute to the regeneration efforts and that this will become one of the important legacies of the Olympic Games, not just for Tokyo, but for the entire country.
“The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 can also play a positive role in the regeneration efforts of Japan’s disaster-affected area.
“The IOC is studying to hold some sport events in the disaster-affected area.
“With this project we want to send an important message of solidarity to the local population that is suffering so much.”
Mori also claimed the Organizing Committee “wanted to take the relay of the Olympic Torch to the disaster-affected areas” – which could be music to the ears of the likes of Ishinomaki Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama, who revealed his city has submitted a plan to be the starting point for the Relay last week.
Kameyama hopes Ishinomaki, located in the Miyagi Prefecture, is given the honor after it was one of the regions affected by the devastating tsunami and earthquake in 2011.
More than 3,000 people were killed in the area by the disaster, while more than 2,770 people remain unaccounted for.
It has been claimed that nearly half of the city, which remains particularly susceptible to typhoons, was inundated by the tsunami.
Ishinomaki became the temporary home for the Olympic Cauldron from the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo when demolition work began on the National Stadium, with its replacement due to be the centerpiece for the Games in four years’ time.
“Other disaster-affected areas can be the location of the Cauldron,” Mori said.
“Word has come up but there has been no concrete discussion.
“We must ensure there is no discontinuity in the Relay.”
Today’s Forum was also the first joint public appearance between Bach and International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven since the Briton made a number of stinging accusations against the German during a prank phone call, revealed by the Russian media.
insidethegames exclusively revealed yesterday that Sir Philip had written a letter of apology to Bach.
The apology was accepted, insidethegames was told, with the pair both keen to draw a line under the matter following several months of escalating tensions between the two.
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.