At least one baseball and softball game will take place in Fukushima during the 2020 Olympic Games, it has been confirmed here today.
The decison was announced following a presentation by Japanese officials at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting.
Matches will take place at the Azuma Baseball Stadium 320 kilometers away from the Yokohama venue for all other games.
It is hoped that the opening game of the competition will take place there.
The Miyagi Stadium in disaster-hit Sendai will also be one football preliminary round venue, it was announced.
This Fukushima prospect was first mooted last year following a meeting between IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe as a way to revitalize an area devastated by a 2011 earthquake and resulting tsunami which left 16,000 dead.
Tokyo 2020 claim today’s decision reinforces their “commitment to bring sporting events to the recovering areas and will demonstrate the power of sport.”
It is expected that the Fukushima Prefecture will cover the cost of overlay and refurbishment at the venue.
“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,” said Tokyo 2020 President, Yoshirō Mori.
“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.”
According to a Tokyo 2020 statement, World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari also welcomed the decision.
“It is a tremendous honor and a duty we take very seriously to be a part of something so meaningful,” he said.
The WBSC repeatedly claimed last year that their priority remained securing a second venue in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.
It was confirmed today that this will not happen.
WBSC officials suggested the distance from Fukushima to Yokohama would place an unfair burden on athletes competing there.
Holding just the opening game there would reduce the impact of this factor, it is hoped.
Concerns had also been raised within the baseball and softball community about high radiation levels in the region.
Studies of the local area suggest this will not be a problem, however.
The Azuma Baseball Stadium is a multi-purpose arena originally opened in 1986 and has a capacity of 30,000.
At present, only six teams will be able to participate in baseball and softball competitions in Tokyo after the sports were returned to the program for the first time since Beijing 2008.
The competition format has not been officially approved, though, and the WBSC are desperate for an increase on team numbers.
A total of 40 venues have now been confirmed for the Games.
These consist of eight new permanent facilities, 23 existing sites and nine temporary venues.
Tokyo 2020 and FIFA are still finalizing other venues for football group stage matches.
A venue for Paralympic road cycling is also yet to be confirmed.
By Nick Butler
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.