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Only 30% of local gov'ts hit by 3.11 want to host Tokyo 2020 athletes, visitors: survey

Fourteen municipalities out of 42 in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures hit hard by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011 are interested in hosting athletes and visitors during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.

The poll revealed that 10 local governments in the three Tohoku prefectures have newly expressed an interest in bidding to host a pre-games training camp, or register as a "host town" for the games -- adding to the four municipalities that have already done so.

However, the percentage of interested local bodies is only about 30 percent of the total, implying that many cities, towns and villages in the region are still struggling to recover, seven years on from the disaster in 2011.

The local governments were asked about their willingness to bid to host a pre-tournament training camp for teams from all over the globe, and also about registering as a host town designed to boost economic, cultural and human exchange between Japan and participating nations.

The majority of municipalities that said they are not interested in hosting training camps or being involved in exchange programs cited shortages relating to staff, funds and facilities.

The Iwaizumi Municipal Government in Iwate Prefecture stated, "We are still in the midst of picking ourselves up after a 2016 typhoon that struck while recovering from 3.11, and do not have the resources to work on Tokyo 2020." The Yamamoto Municipal Government in Miyagi Prefecture said, "We are having support workers sent here from across Japan, and are not in a position to get involved in the games," while the Katsurao Municipal Government in Fukushima Prefecture responded by saying, "Our framework for taking in people from outside the village is not sufficient."

Furthermore, the Shichigahama Municipal Government in Miyagi Prefecture said, "The impression that the 2020 Games will only take place in Tokyo is strong, and many people feel that the areas affected by 3.11 have nothing to do with the event."

Meanwhile, the Miyagi prefectural towns of Minamisanriku and Onagawa, and the town of Tomioka in Fukushima Prefecture have stated that they are not at a stage to consider whether or not to register or bid.

Even among the municipalities that have expressed an interest in registering or bidding, there is also some frustration about not being able to visualize their involvement in the 2020 Games. The Kuji Municipal Government in Iwate Prefecture said, "We can't see how the games and disaster recovery are linked." The Iwanuma Municipal Government in Miyagi Prefecture replied, "It is difficult to understand how the games can have an impact on local recovery," while the Naraha Municipal Government in Fukushima Prefecture stated, "When it was decided that Tokyo would host the games, there was talk of it being a chance to show post-disaster recovery to the world, but we cannot see how exactly."

The survey also touched on "disaster recovery Arigato (thank you) host towns," which require less commitment and center around international exchange. Twenty-two municipalities have already registered or wish to register, among which five local governments hope to be just an Arigato host town.

Regarding venues for actual Olympic and Paralympic events, out of the 42 municipalities surveyed, only the town of Rifu in Miyagi Prefecture will be a host -- for group stage soccer matches.

As for the number of local governments aiming to get involved in the 2020 tournament in some capacity -- including as an Arigato host town -- it looks set to be a maximum of 25, or about 60 percent.

Meanwhile, 34 local governments, or about 80 percent of the total expressed their interest in being included in the Olympic torch relay course, indicating their desire to show the world the real situation of municipalities affected by the 2011 disaster.

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