TOKYO (majirox news) — Tokyo’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, heavily promoted as a chance for the world to witness the recovery from the March 11 disasters, has attracted criticism from those in the Tohoku region hit hardest by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
Japan Olympic Committee (JOC) President Tsunekazu Takeda emphasized Japan’s recovery from the disasters when he announced on July 16 that the JOC had accepted Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara’s proposal to host the 2020 Games.
“The last time we hosted the Olympics (1964), we were able to show the world how much we had recovered from disaster,” Takeda said, referring to Japan’s rise from the ashes of World War II defeat when many of the country’s cities, including Tokyo, had been devastated by bombing. “We want to make this event a similar symbol of recovery from the major disasters we have suffered.”
Those in areas more directly affected by the disasters than Tokyo were less than convinced.
“If they show Miyagi’s recovery, they could become a symbol of recovery,” Kazuhiko Ito, the Miyagi Prefectural Government official responsible for disaster recovery and planning in the devastated northern Japan prefecture told the Mainichi newspaper. “I guess the radiation problem will come up if they invite people from overseas. Nuclear power supplies electricity for the capital region, so I think Gov. Ishihara should be showing what the capital area is going to be doing for energy.”
Atsuko Sano, a local government official from Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture, was skeptical.
“I don’t know exactly what merits there are for the Tohoku region, and can only think (the Games) will center on Tokyo,” she told the national daily. “If they’re going to be talking about recovery, they should host them in Tohoku.”
Teruyuki Uchida, a farmer from Tome, Miyagi prefecture, was equally critical.
“There’s the expectation that sports could bring some life back into to all of Japan, so I’m really looking forward to getting the Games,” he said. “But the Olympics have got nothing to do with recovery. I don’t think there’s any need to tie them to the recovery.”
More than 20,000 were killed or remain missing following the March 11 earthquake that struck centering on Tohoku and the massive tsunami that slammed the region in its aftermath. These natural disasters triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and leaking radiation continues contaminating the region and cesium-tainted foodstuffs are being sold on the market and used in school lunches.
Tokyo, meanwhile, remains under threat of power shortages during the peak summer months due to the strain on the power grid caused by removal of the Fukushima plant because of the meltdowns.
The capital, which hosted the 1964 Olympics, made an unsuccessful bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games, losing out to Rio de Janeiro.