KEIR RADNEDGE on a Japanese nuclear shadow
—– : Toyko’s bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games has come full circle an awkward two weeks ahead of the IOC’s vote.
Japanese Olympic officials’ talk of a bid in early 2011 raised quizzical eyebrows as it came only months after the earthquake and tsunami which provoked the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant.
The issue is back in focus after recent reports from Japan about ongoing failures to both control and monitor effective leakages of radioactive material into the sea.
Critical assessments of a failure to deal effectively with the Fukushima crisis risk undermining the central plank of the Tokyo bid that “we can assure the Olympic movement that we are a safe pair of hands.”
In the main that message was focused on Tokyo’s solid financial guarantees and engineering and architectural capacity.
Bid chairman Tzunekazu Takeda has also said Tokyo wants the Games as an expression of thanks to the international sporting community for support after the loss of 16,000 lives to the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan.
The “safe hands” message has been repeated in international media interviews by chief executive officer Masato Mizuno.
He was, in the main, addressing Tokyo’s solid financial guarantees plus supported by the country’s engineering and infrastructural capacity.
On the Fukushima issue he said: “Regarding the radiation levels, air and water levels are very low and very safe so we’re confident it won’t be a factor. Plus, there’s the distance. Also, we actually monitor 80 points in Tokyo every day and all the levels are very low. There is no problem, no issue.”
Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority task force has complained that the plant was “not addressing the emergency properly” and that radioactive wastewater was seeping into the sea 150 miles north of Tokyo, exceeding legally permitted limits.
Simultaneously Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology suggested that the eventual clean-up costs would far outrun the budget allocated by the Environment Ministry.
Only this week the leakage was upgraded to a level three “serious incident,” the highest warning in two years.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company which owns the plant said this week that it needed international help to regain control of the site. That admission coincided with a further step in the legal arguments over compensation to bereaved relatives of workers and local residents.
All three 2020 bidders have had their embarrassing issues.
Madrid has had to dispel worries about the fragile state of the Spanish economy within the Eurozone crisis plus long-running concerns about its sports authorities’ relaxed attitude to doping.
Istanbul, similarly, has had to cope with widespread dope-test failures plus football matchfixing and the widely condemned heavy-handed police approach to environmental protesters.
Latest perceptions of the state of the bids in the crucial closing weeks is that Istanbul has regained momentum, that Madrid had made significant political progress within the IOC but that Tokyo – many observers’ favourite – has been becalmed.
The 100-plus members of the International Olympic Committee decide between Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo during the organisation’s 125th Session [congress] in Buenos Aires from September 4 to 10.
D-day for the three cities is September 7. The next day the IOC will choose which sport should fill the one vacant slot in the 2020 Games (wrestling or squash or baseball/softball) and then, on September 10, a successor to the retiring Jacques Rogge as president.