The International Olympic Committee has chosen Tokyo as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. It is hoped that Tokyo’s hosting of the once-in-four-year global games will help dispel the “locked in” feeling prevalent in Japanese society — which has been primarily attributed to difficult economic conditions — and help to enhance the level of sports in Japan. But government leaders must realize that their promise to end the leaks of radioactive water from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has now become an international pledge.
The government must mobilize all available resources to quickly solve the leak problem so that not only people in and around Fukushima Prefecture but also participants in the Olympic and Paralympic Games will not have to worry about radiation problems. It will be especially important for the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to tackle the problem in a transparent manner so that people both in Japan and abroad can have ready access to accurate information on the situation.
Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo, the candidate cities to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, all had strong and weak points. Madrid, which sought to hold the games in a less extravagant way, is suffering from Spain’s serious economic problems. Istanbul, which could have become the first city in the Islamic world to host the games, had its image tarnished by clashes between government forces and demonstrators earlier this year. Tokyo, whose marketing campaign stressed, “You’re in safe hands with Tokyo,” had the festering radiation problem.
It appears that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech in Buenos Aires, the venue of the IOC’s convention — in which he stated that the situation at Fukushima No. 1 is under control and that the “effect” of contaminated water is fully contained within the 0.3 sq. meter harbor adjacent to the nuclear power plant — helped to convince the IOC to award the games to Tokyo.
But Tepco estimates that some 50 percent of the water inside the harbor flows into the outer ocean every day. It is suspected that 300 tons of contaminated water leaked into the ocean in August. Because groundwater is flowing into the basements of the damaged reactor buildings every day and becoming contaminated, 400 more tons of radioactive water are being added to the on-site storage tanks on a daily basis. But it is impossible to increase the number of tanks ad infinitum. The government and Tepco must solve the water leakage problem as quickly as possible.
Japan’s campaign to win the right to host the games had a very regrettable aspect to it. Princess Takamado gave a speech at the outset of Tokyo’s presentation in Buenos Aires, in which she thanked the international community for the help it extended to Japan in the aftermath of the 3/11 disasters. This smacks of the use of an Imperial Family member for a political purpose, and even the Imperial Household Agency expressed its discomfort. The Diet should question the government on this point and ask it to refrain from similar actions in the future.
Ms. Mami Sato, a Paralympian from Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, gave a powerful speech stressing the power of sports to restore people’s confidence based on her experience in the 3/11 disasters. Japan needs to make serious efforts to nurture more athletes who embody the ideals stated by Ms. Sato.
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