Organisers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics on Friday got a unanimous green light from the International Olympic Committee to hold baseball and softball competitions in a stadium based in Fukushima Prefecture.
Showing support for efforts to help rebuild the areas hit by the quake and tsunami disaster in March 2011, the IOC approved the use of Azuma Stadium, a 30,000-seat outdoor stadium located in the capital city of Fukushima, over 200 kilometers northeast of Tokyo.
The proposal to add the 31-year-old Azuma Stadium, under the condition that it be renovated, to the existing list of venues for the two sports which includes Yokohama Stadium was voted favorably at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Pyeongchang.
Among other candidate venues were Kaiseizan Stadium in Koriyama and Iwaki Green Stadium in Iwaki, both in Fukushima Prefecture.
“It was unanimously approved. I’m glad that Fukushima was chosen as a host as this will help cheer up the disaster victims. The IOC board agreed, saying it’s a fantastic idea,” said Japanese Olympic Committee President Mr Tsunekazu Takeda.
The plan is to hold one preliminary-round baseball game and one preliminary-round softball game at Azuma Stadium, with a strong possibility on both being opening games for Japan.
“They’ll probably be openers (for Japan). The theme of the Games has always been the recovery of Japan. We want the Games to bring joy to the people in disaster-struck areas,” said Mr Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee.
Meanwhile, Fukushima Gov Masao Uchibori could not hide his excitement upon hearing the good news surrounding Azuma Stadium, expressing gratitude for the chance to convey a positive message to the world.
“This is a valuable opportunity to show the world how we are moving forward with the revitalization process,” said Mr Uchibori, who told then Tokyo Gov Yoichi Masuzoe in December 2014 that Fukushima is interested in hosting some Olympics events.
Mr Uchibori seemed pleased with the selection of the Fukushima stadium as he said he is keen on creating an atmosphere where the Olympic events held in the prefectural capital city will send out positive vibes in all directions across Fukushima.
“It will become one of the symbols of the Olympics of Recovery,” he said, adding that he is feeling the weight of responsibility in continuing reconstructing and revitalising initiatives. KYODO NEWS