TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture could play a part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after organizers on Wednesday approved a plan to hold part of the baseball-softball competition in the disaster-hit region.
The prefecture was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the world’s largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
Baseball is returning to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008 and organizers are keen to play a part in helping the region - parts of which are still uninhabitable - get back on its feet.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach raised the possibility of Fukushima opening the baseball-softball competition at the World Forum on Sport and Culture in Tokyo last month.
The prefecture is one of three proposed venues, along with the cities of Koriyama and Iwaki. The IOC will take a final decision at a meeting of its executive board in December.
Fukushima governor Masao Uchibori said he had been told by Yoshiro Mori, head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic organizing committee, that the process to bring the baseball competition to Fukushima had begun.
“I was told by president Mori that the proceedings to host baseball and softball in Fukushima Prefecture have officially started,” Uchibori said, adding that Fukushima would lobby to host other Olympic events as well.
“We will now work with the organizing committee to decide on the location and do everything we can to make the event a success in Fukushima Prefecture.
“Along with the baseball and softball, we have also asked about the torch relay as well as training camps for the soccer teams. We want to be involved in various events, which will hopefully help add to the atmosphere of the Olympics.”
The president of the World Baseball Softball Confederation, Riccardo Fraccari, will visit Japan next week for an inspection tour of the proposed venues.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris