• Kyodo

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World Baseball Softball Confederation President Riccardo Fraccari stopped short of issuing a verdict after inspecting Fukushima Prefecture’s suitability as a potential host for the 2020 Olympic baseball and softball competitions.

Fraccari on Saturday scouted Azuma Stadium in the city of Fukushima and Koriyama’s Kaiseizan Stadium, but insisted the purpose of his visit this time was to gather intelligence rather than reach any kind of conclusion.

A third city, Iwaki, is also under consideration and Green Stadium has already received a visit from Fraccari.

“At the moment, I’m just collecting information of the stadiums,” said Fraccari, who met with Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori ahead of the stadium tours.

“The problem for Fukushima is not just the stadium,” Fraccari said. “We have to check about the transportation, the facility for the teams and the schedule.”

The 2020 organizing committee is looking to open the baseball and softball tournaments in the prefecture, with Japan set to play in the opening games of both.

Fraccari did not mention a deadline for the competition format and overall schedule but noted that the stakeholders would have to work fast. The organizing committee wants to finalize the details at the International Olympic Committee’s executive board meeting from Dec. 6 to 8.

“Yesterday, it was a good meeting with Tokyo 2020,” he said. “We work very close with them, we cooperate a lot because both of us have the best interests in the games in 2020.”

“We have to work very fast because we don’t have too much time,” he added. “We don’t yet have a fixed deadline, for sure, but we have to work very, very soon towards the entire games’ (plan).”

Uchibori reiterated Fukushima’s willingness to host the two sports.

“We want to express our strong desire to organize the events in Fukushima Prefecture,” Uchibori told Fraccari in his native Italian.

“It will help unite the people of Fukushima, and help unite the prefecture and the world. They’re fantastic sports,” he added.

Uchibori reassured Fraccari that radiation levels in Fukushima Prefecture, home to the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, remain no different than in major cities worldwide.

The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami cut off all power to the plant, triggering a triple core meltdown that spewed radioactive fallout into the environment and over much of the agriculturally dependent prefecture. Decontamination is ongoing.

“In almost all areas in the prefecture, the figures are the same as any of the world’s major cities,” Uchibori said.

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