The decision was welcomed in the Tohoku region, especially in the three prefectures hardest hit by the disaster: Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi. Some residents said commencing the Olympic torch relay from the disaster-struck area would be highly meaningful. Some said that through the flame relay, an international audience will get a glimpse of the current state of the disaster-hit region.
The three prefectures are poised to proceed with deliberations on specific relay routes.
Fukushima prefectural government officials, while cordially welcoming the decision, also appear to be developing a sense of apprehension over assuming the weighty responsibility. Some pointed out that much hard work is required for the torch relay preparations.
The city of Fukushima is scheduled to host part of the Tokyo Olympics’ baseball and softball matches at its Azuma Ballpark under the name “Fukushima Games.”
Officials of the town of Naraha in the Futaba district of the Hamadori region, for their part, expressed a strong desire to host the relay’s start.
Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said: “This is a golden opportunity to help raise the profile of the prefecture of Fukushima and the Futaba district, both of which have energetically taken on post-disaster reconstruction. We believe the Olympic torch relay, for our area, will certainly have significance commensurate with the Tokyo Games, which are alternatively called the ‘Reconstruction Olympics.’”
Mayor Satoshi Endo of the town of Hirono, also in Fukushima’s Hamadori region, hosts the J-Village national soccer training center, whose facilities was set to partly resume operations by the end of July 2018. The town’s mayor, Satoshi Endo, noted, “Given that the J-Village has served as a pivot for helping reconstruction projects, we in the town of Hirono are ready to help rev up the Olympics on the strength of the J-Village.”
Deputy Mayor Katsumi Miyaguchi of the town of Namie, another municipality in the Hamadori area, has also stressed the Olympic flame relay “will really be significant as a symbol of the ‘Reconstruction Olympiad.’”
Will any attention be given to avoiding “hot spots” along the torch route, for the sake of the young runners? What about contamination levels in J-village and other sites for sports that kick up dust?