43.9% of Fukushima residents see Olympics as showcasing recovery, 45.8% don’t

A recent opinion poll of residents in Fukushima Prefecture, conducted jointly by Fukushima-Minpo Co. and Fukushima Television Broadcasting Co., has found that 43.9% of respondents “feel” or “somewhat feel” sympathy for the concept of “Olympics for Recovery” to showcase post-disaster reconstruction through the 2020 Tokyo Games. The ratio was lower than the 45.8% who “don’t” or “little feel” so. As reasons for feeling sympathy, many respondents cited the fact that “the Olympic torch relay is set to start from the prefecture” and other factors, showing prefectural people feel a measure of appreciation for the track record of what has been realized under the concept. But the greater proportion of people feeling little or no sympathy has brought into relief some challenging issues, including the need for greater efforts to foster an atmosphere conducive to publicizing the concept. The circular chart shows replies to the question asking whether pollees feel sympathy for the “Olympics for Recovery” concept. The survey found 15.8% “feel” sympathy and 28.1% “somewhat feel” so for a combined total of 43.9%. On the other hand, 12.1% “don’t feel” any sympathy and 33.7% “little feel” so, bringing the total to 45.8%. Starting in the bid campaign stage before Tokyo was picked as host of the 2020 Olympics, the government championed reconstruction from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake as one of the Games’ symbolic ideas while groping for ways of involving Fukushima and other disaster-affected areas in the Olympic movement. Efforts have been made since Tokyo won the bidding race to turn such ideas into reality. These include the decision in 2017 to use the prefectural government-run Azuma Baseball Stadium as a venue for some games of the baseball/softball events at the Olympics and the choice in March this year of the J-Village national soccer training center straddling the towns of Naraha and Hirono as the starting point for the torch relay. But the poll results show nearly 50% of prefectural people feel no sympathy or a lack of it for the concept of using the Olympics as an opportunity for publicizing reconstruction. Those respondents who “feel” or “somewhat feel” sympathy for the concept were asked why they think so. The greatest proportion, 40.8%, chose “because the Olympic torch relay is set to start from the prefecture,” followed by 32.7% who picked “because the baseball/softball events are to be held in Fukushima city.” Among other reasons were “because we can publicize reconstruction with many spectators expected to visit the prefecture,” cited by 16.2%, and “because Olympic-related events are under way in the prefecture,” selected by 5.5%. The torch relay is scheduled to go through various parts of the prefecture from March 26 to 28 next year while six softball games are slated for July 22-23 and one baseball game for July 29 at the Azuma stadium. In order to have many more prefectural people feel sympathy for the Games concept, it appears essential to make efforts to produce a conducive atmosphere for the Olympics by informing them of the advantages of hosting some events and the significance of participation as well as dissemination of information designed to increase tourists to the prefecture taking advantage of the Games. (Translated by Kyodo News)