Chief of Olympic bid shrugs off Fukushima factor

AFP-JIJI

The radioactive water leaking from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant will not affect Tokyo, Tsunekazu Takeda, head of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games bid, said late last week.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s poorly protected six-reactor plant suffered three core meltdowns in March 2011 after it was tipped into crisis by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 19,000 people. In recent days, Tepco has admitted 300 tons of radioactive water leaked from a large tank — one of around 1,000 on the site — before anyone had noticed. It has also been revealed that some 300 tons of highly radioactive groundwater is entering the sea each day.

While the tank spill is smaller than others that have taken place in the crisis, it sparked fears that the Pacific Ocean is being poisoned and was categorized as a level 3 event, the most serious incident since the meltdowns merited a level 7 — the same as Chernobyl.

However, Takeda insisted that despite the worrying news, the leak would not affect either the bid — the city chosen to host the 2020 Summer Games will be announced Saturday in Buenos Aires — or the Tokyo population itself. Tokyo is vying with Madrid and Istanbul to win the Olympics nod.

The radiation into the Pacific is believed to be spreading and has effectively halted all fishing operations in the area.

Takeda was speaking before news emerged of new radiation hot spots at four sites around Fukushima’s coolant tanks, with one reading at 1.8 sieverts per hour — a dose that would kill a human left exposed to it in four hours.

“There is no risk from Fukushima,” said Takeda, speaking by phone from Buenos Aires in one of his final interviews before the vote.

“Day to day life in Tokyo carries on as normal for its 35 million people.

“The air and water quality is safe. Also the data show that the radiation level is the same as most cities, like Paris, London and New York,” he said. “Our main focus is to deliver a great and safe games.”

Takeda, a show jumping rider who competed in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics, emulating his father, Prince Tsuneyoshi Takeda, who rode at the 1936 Games, said by contrast winning the right to host the games would give the country a huge morale boost.

“The tsunami happened hundreds of miles from Tokyo but the consequences were felt by people throughout the country,” said Takeda, who is bidding to bring Tokyo their second Olympics. The first time was in 1964.

“The sports community has been at the heart of activity there since. It has shown how important the role athletes can play in society.

“It would be a huge morale boost to the whole country were we to win the right to host the Olympics,” added Takeda, who masterminded efforts to bring sports celebrities to the stricken areas.