The Olympic year will mark nine years since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan’s coast. Far from forgotten, the Tokyo Olympics will include the families of victims in the torch relay while also serving as a reference in preparing for possible earthly disasters. On a different note, the original speech that launched the modern Olympic Games is to go on sale. Here’s the latest on those stories and more in an all-new Olympic Update:
FATHER OF 2011 TSUNAMI VICTIM TO CARRY TOKYO OLYMPIC FLAME
Per Kyodo, a father who lost his 12-year-old daughter in the massive tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in 2011 said Thursday he will take part in the torch relay for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Noriyuki Suzuki, whose daughter Mai was a sixth-grader at the Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, said he received an email from the local municipality saying he has been selected as one of the torchbearers.
Suzuki’s daughter was one of 74 pupils of the city-run school who, along with 10 teachers and officials, have been confirmed dead or missing after the tsunami that followed the magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
The victims remained on school grounds for about 50 minutes after the major earthquake struck and were swept away while starting to evacuate.
About 10,000 torchbearers, over half of whom will be selected from the general public, will wind their way through all 47 Japanese prefectures, including areas devastated by recent natural disasters. Each leg of the relay is roughly 200 meters.
SPEECH THAT LAUNCHED THE MODERN OLYMPICS TO GO ON SALE
British broadcaster BBC reported that the original Olympic Game Manifesto, created in 1892 by a French aristocrat outlining his vision for reviving the ancient Games, is set to go on sale.
The manuscript is expected to fetch between $700,000 and $1m at auction in New York. The speech had never previously been shown in public although a high-quality copy was exhibited in Copenhagen, Denmark, back in 2009.
RADIATION HOTSPOTS FOUND NEAR FUKUSHIMA OLYMPIC SITE
According to the British outlet The Guardian, Greenpeace has detected radiation hotspots near the starting point of the upcoming Olympic torch relay in Fukushima.
Japan’s environment ministry said the area was generally safe but it was in talks with local communities to survey the region before the Games, which kick off on July 24.
Last year, we reported that in October of 2017, a water quality report released by Tokyo 2020 organizers jump-started concerns over conditions at Odaiba Marine Park, site of the marathon swimming and triathlon swimming events at the next Summer Olympic Games. Earlier in November, we reported that a Tokyo 2020 water survey showed mixed results after excess levels of E.coli were recorded.
JAPANESE PREFECTURE KUMAMOTO MASCOT KUMAMON NOT ALLOWED TO CARRY OLYMPIC FLAME
Per Kyodo, Kumamon, the cuddly Japanese black bear-like character whose fame has spread overseas, has missed out on becoming a runner for the 2020 Olympic torch relay.
The Kumamoto prefectural government had sounded out the organizing committee of the Tokyo Olympics on whether its chubby mascot could participate in the relay, but the idea was rejected partly because the character “is not a human being.”
To be eligible as a torch runner, a person must be born before April 1, 2008. According to the local government, Kumamon, originally created in 2011, is neither a person nor a bear and his age is a secret. As to its gender, documents show the mischievous character is a “boy.”
An official at the organizing committee said that when it comes to the torch runners, “a special exception is not permitted.”
TOKYO 2020 ORGANIZERS PERFORM EARTHQUAKE DRILL
The Thomson Reuters news agency reported that Tokyo 2020 organizers held an earthquake drill earlier last week at the Ariake Gymnastics Centre, a newly-built venue for next year’s Games, in order to test their readiness in the case of a disaster strike during the Games.
Although only 350 spectators took part in the drill, organizers were pleased with the cooperation between various agencies.
Medics, police, firefighters and Self Defense Forces members arrived at the Gymnastics Centre as part of the drill to tend to spectators pretending to be injured, and dummies representing the more serious casualties.
The rescue workers treated several people at the scene before evacuating everyone from the venue.
Initial warnings were given in both Japanese and English and organizers said that in case of an emergency, English-language signs and translation devices would be used to assist the millions of foreign visitors expected in Tokyo for the Games.
INTERNATIONAL PARALYMPIC COMMITTEE TO PARTNER WITH JAPANESE BROADCASTER NHK IN 2020 OFFICIAL PARALYMPIC FILM
Per The Japan Times, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Japan’s public broadcaster NHK will team up to produce an official documentary film of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.
NHK will first broadcast the documentary before the IPC releases it in Japan and overseas as the official film record of the Paralympic Games.
Further, it will also be the first time that the IPC directly engages in the production of the official film of the Games, with NHK producers, rather than well-known movie directors, steering the production.