Disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture has been tapped as the site of some baseball and softball games for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, in an effort to support recovery in the region.
Azuma Stadium in Fukushima city is likely to serve as the venue for the opening matches, Tokyo Games organizing committee President Yoshiro Mori announced on the sidelines of an IOC meeting in Pyeongchang on March 17.
“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,” he said.
The IOC executive board unanimously approved the proposal during its two-day session.
Fukushima Prefecture is home to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after it was inundated by a massive tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The ensuing nuclear fallout rendered large swaths of the region uninhabitable, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate. While restrictions on some areas have since been lifted, a 20-kilometer radius no-entry zone around the plant is still in effect.
The stadium is about 70 kilometers from the facility. Yokohama Stadium will serve as the primary venue for the sports.
World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari welcomed the IOC decision, saying, “WSBC congratulates Tokyo 2020 President Mori and IOC President Bach on this great step taken with Olympic baseball and softball as a vehicle to inspire hope and highlight the regeneration in Fukushima.”
The bat-and-ball game will be returning to the Olympiad for the first time since 2008.