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Delicacies from disaster-hit areas on the menu for Tokyo IOC banquet

(Mainichi)

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is teaming up with the Reconstruction Agency to bring delicacies from 2011 disaster-hit Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures to the table for its banquet with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Dec. 12.

It is said that many foreign travelers have strong concerns about the effects of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant caused by the earthquake and tsunami disaster in March 2011, but the Tokyo committee plans to use its many opportunities to appeal to the IOC about the safety of Fukushima products and the charm of the Tohoku region's abundant foodstuffs. A spokesperson for the Fukushima Prefectural Government said, "We would like many people to try our products, and better understand the situation in the disaster-hit areas."

The IOC and the Tokyo planning committee will hold a coordination conference for three days beginning on Dec. 11 to confirm progress on preparations for the games in the Tokyo area. Roughly 50 members of the IOC will participate in the banquet. In order to increase a feeling of involvement in the 2020 Games, the governors of each of the three prefectures have been invited to the banquet, and will be given time to speak to the IOC about the current conditions in each of their prefectures.

The organizing committee collaborated with the wishes of the three prefectures in deciding what special products to serve at the banquet. Representing Iwate Prefecture will be "hakkinton" (platinum pork) and two types of rice grown in the prefecture, "konjiki no kaze" (golden wind) and "ginga no shizuku" (drops of the Milky Way). From Miyagi Prefecture, beef tongue and "kinka" mackerel will be on the menu. Apples, "Kawamata Shamo" chicken and other items will be representing Fukushima Prefecture. The committee is working with the hotel that will hold the banquet to include each region's products in every item on the menu.

In the outline for the committee's "Basic Strategy on Food and Beverage Services at the Tokyo 2020 Games," serving a menu made with ingredients from the affected areas is also planned to be utilized for athletes at the Olympic Village and other locations. While actually deciding on the menu for the games itself is still two years away, the banquet is a chance to promote the regional products to the IOC. The reputation of agricultural and other food products of Fukushima and the other prefectures have taken a heavy hit from rumors, and the committee hopes that 2020 will become a "Reconstruction Games" that will help dispel misconceptions.

This November, the Reconstruction Agency created a new reconstruction Olympics promotion team to connect the games to the areas that suffered damage from the 2011 disaster. The team will take on projects strongly requested by the areas to use foodstuffs at the Olympic Village as well as hold reconstruction promotional events.

"We're extremely thankful that the organizing committee is taking on promotional events this early," said State Minister for Reconstruction Toru Doi, who heads the team. "I would like this to be a step toward mending the damaged reputation of the regions."

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