TOKYO — The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games torch relay may pass through a town in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture that was devastated by nuclear meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, sources said Tuesday.
The Olympic torch relay course could include the environs of the No. 1 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Okuma as part of the organizers’ efforts to promote the games as the “reconstruction Olympics,” the sources said.
The government lifted its mandatory evacuation order over parts of Okuma last month, but most of the town still remains a no-go zone. The relay will pass through the parts of Okuma and the surrounding area where the evacuation order has been lifted.
After declaring that problems containing radioactive water accumulating at the No. 1 reactor were “under control” during the 2020 Olympic bid process, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the government have used the games to showcase Japan’s recovery from the massive earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 and ensuing nuclear disaster.
But in districts of Okuma where the evacuation order has been lifted — which covers 40 percent of the town’s total land — only a tiny percentage of residents have returned, with some saying they have been left behind while more emphasis is placed on showing off the progress of recovery.
Organizers announced in July 2018 that Fukushima would be the starting point for the relay. In March, organizing committee president Yoshiro Mori revealed the relay will begin some 20 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi at the J-Village national soccer training center, which was used as an operational base for handling the crisis.
The Olympic torch will arrive in Japan on March 20, 2020, and the flame will be taken to Ishinomaki Minamihama Tsunami Recovery Memorial Park in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated eight years ago.
It will then travel by train through Miyagi and Iwate prefectures — the two other prefectures hit hardest by the powerful earthquake and tsunami — before making its way to Fukushima.
The Japan leg of the relay will begin on March 26, 2020, two weeks after the flame lighting ceremony in Greece, and will travel across all 47 prefectures in Japan over a period of 121 days.
The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to be held between July 24 and Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.