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Bach says Tokyo 2020 events could be held in disaster zone

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has suggested that some events at the 2020 summer Olympic Games should be staged in the north-eastern region of Japan that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Bach’s comments come amid continuing debate over the make-up of Tokyo’s 2020 Games, as local organisers seek to drive down escalating costs. In March, Tokyo 2020 organisers said Fukushima could stage the opening rounds of the baseball and softball tournaments at the Olympic Games.

The 2011 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, killed more than 18,000 people in the north-eastern region of Japan. Miyagi and Iwate Prefecture, which were hit by the disaster, have been assigned games to host during Japan’s staging of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo said in March that he had spoken with Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori and Bach about ensuring Fukushima could stage baseball and softball games during Tokyo 2020. At the time, baseball and softball were not confirmed on the Games programme. However, the sports, along with surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing, were added to the line-up in August.

Speaking after a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today (Wednesday), Bach said that other sports could also be included in a plan to take the Games to north-eastern Japan. “We discussed the idea… to have some events of the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 in the disaster affected areas in order to contribute to the regeneration of the area, and also to send a message of confidence and hope to the people there,” Bach said, according to the Reuters news agency.

“An inaugural (game) of baseball with the participation of the Japanese team could, I think, be a very powerful message. But it is not the only option we are discussing.”

Bach and Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike yesterday agreed to establish a four-party working group in an effort to address increasing concerns over rising costs for Tokyo 2020. The group will consist of the IOC, Tokyo 2020 local organising committee and the metropolitan and central Japanese governments. The group is set to meet for the first time after Koike decides by the end of this month on the recommendations, which include potential venue changes, put forward by her review panel on spending.

Koike last week said proposals to change three venues for the 2020 Games represent the “last chance” to cut costs for the event, as local organisers continued to rail against plans to relocate rowing and canoeing some 250 miles north of the capital.

A Tokyo government panel last month urged the organising committee for the Japanese capital’s staging of the 2020 Games to relocate three venues for the multi-sport event after warning that costs of hosting could soar to over 3 trillion yen (€25.8bn/$29bn), over four times the figure that was originally planned.

The panel, appointed by Koike to find ways to save money on hosting the Games, published a report that recommended venues for rowing and canoeing, swimming and volleyball be moved outside of Tokyo to alternate sites.