The International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board has today (Friday) approved the Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium as an additional host venue for baseball and softball events during the 2020 summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Fukushima was one of the worst-hit areas during the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, which killed more than 18,000 people in the north-eastern region of Japan. The Tokyo 2020 organising committee hopes that staging Olympic events in Fukushima will support ongoing recovery efforts in the wider Tohoku region.
The Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium (pictured), which has staged a number of top-tier Nippon Professional Baseball matches in the past, will be renovated for the Games. Organisers will work with the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) with the aim of hosting matches featuring the Japanese national teams at the 30,000-seat venue. Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said that at least one baseball match will be played at the stadium, with the opening game targeted as one of these.
The Yokohama Stadium in Kanagawa Prefecture will continue to serve as the primary venue for baseball and softball events at the Games.
Mori said: “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. It will also be a wonderful chance for us to show our gratitude towards those who assisted in the region’s reconstruction. And I’m sure the people of Fukushima are also looking forward very much to seeing Olympics events hosted there.”
WBSC president Riccardo Fraccari added: “It is a tremendous honour and a duty we take very seriously to be a part of something so meaningful – to serve the Olympic Movement and to use the power of sport to shape a better world. It is in this wonderful spirit that WBSC held the U-15 Baseball World Cup last year in Iwaki, Fukushima.”
Tokyo 2020 will mark baseball/softball’s first appearance at a Games since Beijing 2008. Other additional sports included on the Tokyo 2020 programme of events are skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate.
The addition of the Fukushima stadium brings the total number of Tokyo 2020 venues up to 40. This includes eight new permanent venues, 23 existing sites and nine temporary venues. Thirty-nine of the 40 venues will be used for Olympic events, with 20 to be used for Paralympic competitions.
Tokyo 2020 and Fifa, the global governing body of football, are currently discussing the finalisation of venues for the group-stage matches at the Games. It has already been decided that Miyagi Prefecture, another area badly hit by the 2011 disaster, will host some football matches during the Games.