Tokyo Olympics Chief invokes power of sport on anniversary of disaster

FILE PHOTO: A pedestrian looks at pictures of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, part of a photo exhibition inside the Tokyo train station building September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Yuya Shino/File Photo


Seiko Hashimoto highlighted the crucial role of Olympic Games in the economic resurgence of disaster-hit areas.

Expressing condolence on the 10th anniversary of the deadly 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Tokyo Olympics 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto, highlighted the power of sport on Thursday saying it provided hope for survivors during coronavirus.

Hashimoto said the power of sport had become a focus of Tokyo’s bid for the games after the disaster and that the concept could be extended to facing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off northeast Japan, triggering a tsunami that devastated the region and caused a meltdown at a nuclear plant in Fukushima. About 20,000 people were killed.

Remembering the disaster, Hashimoto stated that, “Even stronger determination” was needed to help boost the recovery of the areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami.

“While COVID-19 has led to the first-ever and unprecedented postponement of the Games, the role of sports within society has become ever more relevant,” Hashimoto added.

File Photo: Seiko Hashimoto

The Olympics, postponed by a year because of the pandemic, are scheduled for July 23 to Aug. 8 and the Paralympics from Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.

Hashimoto said Tokyo’s Olympic bid did not initially have the full support of the Japanese people, but they gradually came around when they saw how the Games could contribute to the recovery of the disaster-hit areas.

Surveys have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Olympics this summer due to worries that visitors from abroad will spark a resurgence in coronavirus infections.

Japan has therefore decided to stage the Games without overseas spectators, sources have told Reuters. A decision on international fans is to be made this month.