IOC head makes 1st visit to Fukushima, shows strong will for “Olympics of Recovery”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach visited Fukushima Prefecture for the first time on Nov. 24. Accompanied by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he inspected the prefectural-run Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima city, which will host baseball and softball events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Briefed by Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on plans to refurbish the stadium, Bach got a good impression about the stadium’s atmosphere and showed expectations for improvement ahead of the events. Conferring with Abe and Uchibori, he expressed his strong will to realize the Tokyo Games philosophy of an “Olympics of Recovery” to showcase reconstruction from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster. Looking around the stadium from the ground, Bach received the briefing by Uchibori and confirmed the renovation plans and their prospects. Speaking to reporters after the inspection, Uchibori quoted Bach as saying, “The atmosphere of Azuma Sports Park as a whole, including the stadium, is amazing. It is very good to be able to have competitions in this environment.” The IOC chief showed expectations for such plans as covering the ground of the stadium with artificial grass and making the facility barrier-free, and then promised to visit Fukushima again. Following the stadium visit, Bach held a meeting with Abe, Uchibori and other officials. “I am very much impressed with the great progress in reconstruction…in Fukushima,” Bach said. “I am happy that sport has played such an important role in the psychological recovery of the people.” Bach noted that he and Abe discussed plans three years ago to ensure the Tokyo Games lead to support for the recovery of Fukushima, emphasizing the significance of holding Olympic events in the prefecture as a symbol of an “Olympics of Recovery.” Bach asked Abe for close cooperation toward the success of the Tokyo Olympics. “We would like to show the rest of the world through the Olympics how the affected region has recovered,” Abe said. “Fukushima is the appropriate place to show the power of the Olympics, the power of sports.” Bach conversed the same day with three baseball team players of Fukushima Commercial High School at Fukushima Azuma Gymnasium. He listened to them speak of their positive frame of mind dedicated to baseball after overcoming difficulties faced in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant. A welcome ceremony was held at the stadium, and Bach received a bouquet from grade and junior high school players of baseball and softball in Fukushima city. The inspection trip was also joined by Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Masahiko Shibayama, Minister for Reconstruction Hiromichi Watanabe and Olympics minister Yoshitaka Sakurada, among other officials. (Translated by Kyodo News)