Olympic events could be moved from Tokyo to help disaster-hit Fukushima, say IOC
The International Olympic Committee has suggested moving some events at the 2020 Games from Tokyo to Fukushima, the area affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster.
IOC president Thomas Bach discussed the idea with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo, saying it would "contribute to the regeneration of the area" and "send a message of hope".
According to an IOC press release, Abe said he welcomed "the idea of offering some sports and events to the devastated areas to help with reconstruction".
IOC President and Japanese PM Abe agree on idea to move some events from Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 to stricken area around Fukushima pic.twitter.com/e1mDBaHAV4— IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) October 19, 2016
Fukushima, the capital city of the Fukushima prefecture, is about 150 miles north of Tokyo and was hit by a powerful earthquake in March 2011, which caused a tsunami that smashed into the prefecture's eastern coast. That led to a major incident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
More than 1,800 people are thought to have died as a result of the earthquake and tsunami, while the nuclear incident forced nearly 47,000 people to evacuate the area.
Bach is visiting Tokyo this week at a remarkably tense moment in the preparations for the next Summer Olympics.
Last month, Tokyo's new governor Yuriko Koike threatened to rip up Tokyo 2020's the venue plan when a panel of experts told her the final cost of the Games could top £24billion, four times the original estimate.
The organisers of the Games have already made some concessions to their plans to stage a "compact" Games based around Tokyo Bay but Koike's refusal to saddle tax-payers with "white elephants" has threatened to see more sports sent to different cities.
The proposed new venue for canoeing and rowing is one of those in Koike's cross hairs and Japanese reports have suggested the sports could be moved to the facilities used for the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea.
This would be deeply humiliating for Tokyo 2020's organisers and with them and the IOC desperate to avoid any further changes the pair have agreed to four-party talks with Koike's metropolitan government and Abe's national government.
Bach told reporters he was "fully committed" to a "sustainable and feasible" Games and was sure "significant savings" could be found on top of the £1.5bn already saved by moving basketball, taekwondo and track cycling to existing venues.
And several IOC insiders have suggested in recent weeks that Koike's estimate is too high as it includes infrastructure spending that should not be attached to the Games' budget, while some local experts have pointed out that post-2011 reconstruction has caused all building costs to rise in Japan.
With that in mind, the IOC plan to move some events to areas still dealing with the disaster could be a sensible compromise, with another option for canoeing and rowing being Tome, in the Miyagi prefecture north of Fukushima.