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12th March 2020

Safety concerns over Fukushima opening the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay

With worries over radiation levels and coronavirus, the 2020 Olympics face a difficult few months ahead
Safety concerns over Fukushima opening the Tokyo 2020 Olympic torch relay
Photo: IAEA Imagebank @Flickr

In February Fukushima Governor, Masao Uchibori declared that the area was safe to host its leg of the Olympic torch relay.

The rebuilding project has been taking place since the devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit in 2011, causing the most severe nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernoybl disaster. 

The disaster in Northern Japan has since left over 18,500 people dead with numbers rising due to radioactive fallout causing long term fatal health implications. 

Governor Uchibori’s statement comes after a report was published by Greenpeace in December 2019 declaring that high-level radiation hot spots can be detected at a sports complex where the 2020 Tokyo Olympics torch relay will kick off next year. 

The study revealed that radiation levels around the J-Village sports camp were over 1,700 times higher than prior to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. 

The Japanese Government pledged to keep the radiation level ratings at 0.23 microsieverts per hour, however Greenpeace found levels as close to 21 microsieverts per hour. Which is exposure to a greater amount of radiation in a day than you would naturally be exposed to in a year. 

Since the report Japanese authorities have begun further clean up work to decontaminate the area, which will also host the opening matches for Olympic Baseball and Softball, and declare it as safe. 

Fukushima was chosen for the opening leg of the torch relay to show to the world a narrative of recovery. The Olympics has always been a stage for countries to showcase what they have to offer, and in this case it shows solidarity between regions to move forward from a tragedy that stunned so many. 

However, with speculation increasing that the Olympics could be cancelled due to coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s excitement over the possibility of displaying values of unity may have to wait.

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