Tokyo 2020 lines up Fukushima for Olympic baseball

Tokyo 2020 organisers have said Fukushima could stage the opening rounds of the baseball and softball tournaments at the Olympic Games, while organising committee president Yoshiro Mori has criticised the part played by Sports Minister Hiroshi Hase in the latest setback to hit plans for the centrepiece of the event.

Today (Friday) marked the five-year anniversary of the earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, which 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 today that he had spoken with Mori and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach about ensuring Fukushima could stage baseball and softball games during Tokyo 2020.

“I'd certainly like to host the sports at Fukushima Prefecture,” Endo said, according to the Kyodo news agency. “At the moment, we have no events scheduled to take place in Fukushima, which has been most affected. We'll be working toward staging them there.”

Tokyo 2020 has proposed baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing as additional sports for its staging of the Olympic Games. The final decision on the Tokyo 2020 programme will be made by the IOC at the 129th IOC Session in Rio de Janeiro in August.

Japan’s plans for Tokyo’s new national stadium have been marred by embarrassing setbacks, with the latest concerning the location of the Olympic cauldron in the venue. The new stadium masterplan adopted by the government in December did not specify where the cauldron would be located and there is now concern whether the finished stadium would pass the Japanese Fire Service Act.

Mori (pictured) said that main stadium operator the Japan Sports Council (JSC) and Hase were to blame for the latest incident. “The sports minister who supervises the JSC has to be held responsible,” Mori said. “We've had nothing reported on the issue. It would make no sense not to think about the Olympic cauldron if the stadium was getting built for the Olympics.”

Mori said that he had received consent from Bach to use the cauldron utilised for Tokyo’s 1964 Games for the 2020 Olympics. The cauldron is currently located in Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture.