National

'Reconstruction Olympics' theme said not to have gathered momentum

Kyodo

Half of 42 municipalities in northeastern Japan hit by a massive earthquake in 2011 said the public is not fully aware of the government’s efforts to showcase the region’s recovery from the disaster through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a Kyodo News survey showed Wednesday.

The heads of 21 local governments in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures said in the survey that the “reconstruction Olympics” theme has yet to fully catch on among the public.

Asked whether the slogan has gained public attention, two mayors said “it has not” while 19 mayors said “it mostly has not.” Eighteen said “it has a little” and two said “it has.” The remaining municipality — the Fukushima city of Soma — did not answer.

“The phrase ‘reconstruction Olympics’ was thought up but no substantial progress has been made and the affected areas feel left behind,” said an official of the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi Prefecture. “We have limited manpower and cannot spare personnel for Olympic events.”

“The sporting event will be held under the banner of the ‘reconstruction Olympics’ but venues are centered on Tokyo,” said an official of Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture.

The Tokyo Organising Committee has promoted projects involving the disaster-stricken areas, such as holding baseball and softball games in Fukushima and starting the Japan leg of the Olympic torch relay in the prefecture, which was hit by a nuclear crisis in the wake of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Before the relay, the flame will be displayed in the three northeastern prefectures.

The Fukushima city of Iwaki expressed appreciation over the move to highlight the recovery of the affected areas in the Summer Olympics. “Fukushima will be hosting some games and the torch relay will start here. We have been given certain roles to play,” a city official said.

Asked what they expect from the Tokyo Games in a multiple-choice question, the biggest group, of 36 mayors, picked “promoting our progress toward recovery,” while 20 mayors, mainly from Fukushima, chose “overcoming reputational damage.”

“We want to use the Olympics as a chance to regain sales channels for our farm products,” said an official of the Fukushima town of Namie.

Hisashi Sanada, a professor of the anthropology of sport and Olympic history at the University of Tsukuba, said efforts by the central government and the organizing committee to promote reconstruction through the sporting event were “not enough.”

“The state needs to explain in detail to municipalities what kind of support it can offer, and the local governments should also rack their brains about how to link (the Olympics) to regional development,” Sanada said.