Fukushima Set To Host Olympic Baseball And Softball In 2020

  • Fukushima Set To Host Olympic Baseball And Softball In 2020

Fukushima Set To Host Olympic Baseball And Softball In 2020

Olympic baseball matches will be held in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, an area devastated by the 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium as an additional venue for baseball and softball.

Workers stand in front of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on February 28, 2012.

"The reconstruction of Japan is a major theme for the Olympics", Yoshiro Mori, president of the organizing committee, said after the IOC decision at the meeting in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The region was devastated by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Yokohama Stadium was previously confirmed as the main venue for baseball and softball events at the Olympic Games in 2020.

The choice of baseball is significant as it is Japan's most popular sport and will be closely watched by domestic fans when it returns to the Olympic schedule in 2020.

Azuma Stadium has hosted games of Japan's premier sports league, Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), and will undergo renovation under local authorities. They added that the location of the events is hoped to ensure the plight of the people of Fukushima remains in the global spotlight, as well as give hope to and encourage the people who live in the disaster-hit prefecture.

The choice of Fukushima comes after the prefecture was hit six years ago by the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, forcing the evacuation of thousands of people, some of whom are still unable to return home. As of February, 123,000 remained displaced, according to The Associated Press.

Although the Japanese government planned to lift some evacuation orders in some parts of Fukushima later this month, few might actually move back: In a government survey a year ago, more than half of Fukushima's former residents said they wouldn't return, The New York Times reported.

Parts of the region are still uninhabitable, but the Japanese government announced this year that it would lift evacuation orders still in place for much of the area. Environmental group Greenpeace says those risks are highest for women and children.