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Tokyo 2020 approves plan to take baseball and softball to disaster zone

The organising committee for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has approved plans to stage some baseball and softball games in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas during the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The cities of Fukushima, Koriyama and Iwaki have been proposed as host sites for baseball and softball, which in August were added to the programme of events for Tokyo 2020, along with surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing.

The 2011 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami which triggered an explosion at a nuclear power plant, killed more than 18,000 people in the north-eastern region of Japan.

Tokyo 2020 organisers first said that the opening rounds of the baseball and softball tournaments could be played in Fukushima in March this year. The organising committee’s executive board has now approved the move, which last month gained traction after being mentioned as a possibility by International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.

“I was told by (Tokyo 2020) president (Yoshiro) Mori that the proceedings to host baseball and softball in Fukushima Prefecture have officially started,” Masao Uchibori, Fukushima Governor, said, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo. “We have put forth three stadiums in the cities of Fukushima, Koriyama and Iwaki.

“We will now work with the organising committee to decide on the location and do everything we can to make the event a success in Fukushima Prefecture.”

World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) president Riccardo Fraccari is due to visit Japan next week to inspect the host sites, with the IOC to make its final decision on the Fukushima location during its executive board meeting from December 6-8.

Details of which fixtures will be staged in Fukushima have yet to be confirmed, while costs surrounding the games also need determining.

Tokyo 2020 vice-president Toshiaki Endo said: “In early December, there will be an executive board meeting of the IOC. We need to have discussions with the WBSC and push things toward that meeting.

“We have not had detailed talks yet. First, we need to decide which city and have that approved. Then we can start discussing everything else. We have yet to go over how much this or that will cost. That will be discussed through the four-party talks (between the IOC, Tokyo 2020 and the central Japanese and Tokyo metropolitan governments).”

Uchibori added that Fukushima is keen on hosting other Olympic events, with enquiries having been made regarding the torch relay and training camps for football teams.

The Miyagi Prefecture, another area hit by the disaster, is also expected to host football matches during the Games and is a back-up option for staging rowing and canoeing events, which are due to be held at Sea Forest Waterway in Tokyo Bay. Miyagi may be called upon to replace Sea Forest Waterway as the organising committee seeks to minimise costs.