For modern Olympic host cities, the twin threats of terrorism and financial ruin constantly loom. But spare a thought for Tokyo 2020 organisers, who face the added risk of a devastating earthquake or tsunami.
Japan is already stepping up efforts to reassure top athletes and hundreds of thousands of visitors when they flock to Tokyo for the Games, which begin on July 24, 2020, that safety will be paramount.
Tokyo and its surrounding areas sit precariously at the junction of shifting tectonic plates and have suffered violent quakes in the past, notably the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that killed more than 100,000 people.
“If an earthquake directly hitting the capital caused catastrophe before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it could be serious enough to prevent the Japanese economy from functioning properly,” Hirata told AFP.
“We would have little option but to seek an alternative Olympic host.”
Tokyo and neighbouring Yokohama topped a list of global quake or tsunami-risk metropolitan areas, according to a 2013 survey by insurance firm Swiss Re.
Tokyo 2020 organisers insist Olympic facilities have all cleared the nation’s strict quake-proof building standards.
But Kojiro Suzuki, a tsunami researcher at Port and Airport Research Institute—where staff study tsunamis in a huge wave pool—warned there is a limit to what preventative measures can do.
“The damage could well be beyond people’s anticipation,” he said. “We should not fully rely on breakwaters. Evacuation is important.”—AFP