President Bach visits Fukushima, meets PM Abe and talks to athletes from the region
President Bach visited the tsunami-hit city of Fukushima, north of Tokyo, on Saturday. During the visit he met the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and talked to young athletes.
More than 15,000 people were killed in the tsunami in March 2011, and 500,000 people were displaced from their homes.
The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will see baseball and softball competitions hosted in Fukushima's Azuma Stadium, with football played at nearby Miyagi Stadium, also in the stricken region. The decision taken by the IOC in consultation with the Japanese government was aimed at supporting the recovery in the region.
During his visit, the IOC President was able to meet a number of young players from a badminton competition played that morning, and discuss with them their hopes for the future and how sport had been able to help them.
Later, he met three young baseball players who all had been badly affected when the tsuanmi hit in 2011. One of the athletes had lost his home and had to be evacuated, spending more than a month in a emergency centre. He told the IOC President how much sport had given him and his family through this period and helped with their recovery.
During this meeting, President Bach said: "Sport and baseball have given hope to you and your families. And sport has helped you to overcome many challenges as well as giving you the opportunities to meet team-mates and friends. In the end, this is what sport is all about."
Later, at the the Azuma Stadium where Olympic competitions will be held during Tokyo 2020, he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and together they met with with young players and their parents.
Also present were the Minister of Reconstruction, the Minister of Sport and Youth and the Minister for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the Governor and the Mayor of the Fukushima region.
During a meeting with President Bach, afterwards, Prime Minister Abe told him: "Japan was determined to showcase progress in the recovery of the region." He also praised the IOC for its "courage in deciding to have softball and basebaĺl in Fukushima Stadium during the Olympic Games."
President Bach said that it was symbolic that their meeting was taking place in Fukushima. He said, "I am very much impressed with the great progress in reconstruction and the mental recovery the people have made here in Fukushima. I am happy that sport has played such an important role in the psychological recovery of the people."
In another symbolic gesture, Fukushima will also stage the first leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in the run-up to the Tokyo Games in 2020.
Throughout the meeting, President Bach was accompanied by IOC Member and Coordination Commission Chair, John Coates, and by IOC Member in Japan and NOC President Tsunekazu Takeda. Also present was IOC Member Morinari Watanabe, who is President of the International Gymnastics Federation.