Riccardo Fraccari, president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC), has backed plans for Japan's Fukushima Prefecture to stage some of the sports’ fixtures during the Tokyo 2020 summer Olympic Games.
Last week, the Tokyo 2020 organising committee approved plans to stage some baseball and softball games in Fukushima, Koriyama and Iwaki. 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. It is hoped that hosting some events during the Games will aid its recovery process.
Fraccari (pictured) met with Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori earlier today (Friday) and is due to visit venues in Fukushima and Koriyama tomorrow.
“I know how important baseball is and how baseball can help the recovery of the disaster-affected area in Fukushima,” Fraccari said, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo. “I know perfectly how important baseball is in your country and the WBSC organised the Under-15 World Cup in Fukushima (in July and August). For me it was an opportunity to feel the passion of the Fukushima people about baseball.”
It has been proposed that one first-round game in both baseball and softball be played in Fukushima. Games organisers will work with the WBSC and local governing bodies before finalising a plan that will be proposed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December.
Fraccari has already visited a venue in Iwaki and stated that a decision on Fukushima would be made once the site has been viewed.
“We make any decision just by inspecting the field,” Fraccari added. “If Fukushima has all the requirements after the inspection and if it’s possible to put the game in the schedule – because we have to consider the distance – for sure we are disposed toward (accepting) these invitations.
“We have Yokohama (Stadium) as the main stadium but we need to analyse our needs, because a group of six is impossible to play on (just) one field. So we’d like to find a solution.”
Some areas within an exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will remain uninhabitable for years to come, but radiation elsewhere in the prefecture is at safe levels.
"From the data I have received, the situation now is not dangerous in Fukushima,” Fraccari added, according to the Reuters news agency. “Even in the Under-15 World Cup just one country refused to come, but the rest were there. I think the main issues are facilities and the schedule. Fukushima is a perfectly nice place where you can go.”
Baseball and softball were added to the programme of events for Tokyo 2020 back in August. Surfing, karate, skateboarding and sport climbing were also placed on the programme for the next edition of the summer Games.