Fukushima hopes to host some of the events for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to show the world that the worst days of the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster are behind it.
“We need to set a goal so that we can show how much Fukushima has recovered,” Masao Uchibori, who was elected the new governor of Fukushima Prefecture in October, said Tuesday.
“The Olympics is meant to show to the world the Tohoku region’s reconstruction. We want to cooperate as much as possible,” he said, as cited by Reuters.
Uchibori made no mention of which events Fukushima Prefecture would aim to host, but football is the likely choice, on account of the schedule and large number of stadia needed for the Olympic tournament.
In September 2013, Tokyo successfully won the bid to host the 125th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session, beating out Madrid and Istanbul. Japan last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964 – the first Olympics ever held in Asia. Tokyo was actually supposed to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, although Japan’s invasion of China saw the games moved to Helsinki before ultimately being canceled because of World War II.
Tokyo said the event would help the country recover from the 2011 tsunami and earthquake which sparked the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“Japan needs hope and dreams,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after the IOC announcement.
Just days before Tokyo won the bid, Abe told the IOC that ongoing leaks of radioactive water at Fukushima would have no impact on the country’s ability to host the 2020 Olympics.
“There have been some expressions of concern over the leak of polluted water at Fukushima, but the government will take a lead in achieving a complete resolution of this problem,” Abe told reporters at the time. “I will explain carefully that we are doing our utmost with a firm resolve and that in 2020, seven years from now, there will be absolutely no problem.”
The president of the Japanese Olympic Committee further attempted to assuage fears by saying the radiation level in Tokyo was “the same” as in other major global capitals such as London, New York and Paris.
But Mitsuhei Murata, a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, said it was “immoral” to invite people to the Olympic Games in Japan, saying “the health environment cannot be secured,” the UK Independent cited him as saying at the time.
He called for the bid to be rescinded.
Later that month, Abe ordered that two Fukushima reactors which survived the 2011 disaster be permanently decommissioned.
The president of Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operated the disabled Fukushima plant, promised Abe it would finish treating contaminated water at Fukushima by March 2015.
Earlier this month, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said the radioactive water that has accumulated at the plant must be decontaminated and dumped into the ocean.
Some 400 tons of untainted groundwater are believed to be seeping into the buildings of the Fukushima plant on a daily basis. It is then mixing with the toxic water generated in the process of cooling the crippled reactors. TEPCO collects the radioactive groundwater and stores it at the site of the plant. However, storing the groundwater becomes more difficult each day, as the water quantity continues to increase.
The March 11, 2011, incident at Fukushima was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Despite TEPCO’s intensive cleanup operation at the site, it will likely take four decades to completely decommission the plant’s four damaged reactors.