• Kyodo

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Fukushima Prefecture, devastated by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, is safe to host its leg of the Olympic torch relay, the prefecture’s governor has said.

The government has designated the upcoming Tokyo Games as the “Reconstruction Olympics,” and the torch relay is set to begin on March 26 at J-Village, a football training center in the prefecture that was once an operational base for dealing with the nuclear crisis.

Opening matches for Olympic baseball and softball will be played in the city of Fukushima as well.

“Through this ‘Reconstruction Olympics,’ we would like to show how Fukushima’s reconstruction has progressed in the past nine years as the result of efforts in cooperation with the Japanese government,” Gov. Masao Uchibori told a news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday.

Holding the Olympic events “doesn’t mean the reconstruction has finished,” he added, noting that the prefecture also suffered damage from Typhoon Hagibis, which left a trail of destruction across wide areas of the nation last fall.

The 2011 quake and tsunami disasters in northeastern Japan left more than 15,000 people dead and triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl crisis. Typhoon Hagibis in October caused massive floods in Fukushima.

The safety of the torch relay route has been confirmed through constant radiation monitoring, as well as other measures, Uchibori said.

Late last year, Greenpeace Japan informed the government and Olympic bodies that radiation hot spots had been discovered around J-Village, prompting Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to remove soil from the affected areas.

In the town of Naraha, one of the municipalities in which J-Village is located, only about half of the residents have returned since the evacuation, according to Uchibori.

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