Fukushima faces wall to hosting Olympic baseball

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The world governing body for baseball and softball is calling on the organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to secure “a second stadium in the metropolitan area,” and is making it a prerequisite for the body to approve a plan to hold some games for the additional event in Fukushima Prefecture, it has been learned.

The organizing committee is finding it difficult to accept the idea of setting up “a second stadium” and negotiations are bound to reach a deadlock. The decision to make Fukushima an Olympic venue may have to wait until next spring or later.

The request from the World Baseball Softball Confederation was made known in a letter sent to the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Yoshiro Mori, the president of the organizing committee, revealed the content of the letter in an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun on Wednesday. Mori is attending a board meeting of the International Olympic Committee held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The IOC board approved of the plan to make Yokohama Stadium in the city of Yokohama the main venue for the additional event, but the decision on Fukushima was deferred.

According to Mori, the letter stated that the three possible venues in the prefecture – stadiums in the cities of Fukushima, Iwaki and Koriyama – were worthy candidates, but also set two conditions in order for the WBSC to approve the plan: to upgrade the stadium to be decided such as by turfing the infield and to secure a second stadium in the metropolitan area.

The IOC currently has plans to divide the six participating national teams into two groups for the preliminary round, so that eight to 10 games will be held in total including the final. The WBSC, on the other hand, intends to make the qualifying games a round robin of all six teams, which would likely increase the total number of games to from 17 to 19. With this in mind, the world body is hoping to add a second stadium to the event, such as Seibu Prince Dome in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, or Zozo Marine Stadium in Chiba.

Mori made it clear after the IOC board meeting that he would oppose the idea of a second stadium in the metropolitan area. He explained that the organizing committee has an understanding with the IOC that hosting an Olympic event in a disaster area should be considered separately as part of ongoing restoration efforts. “We have reconfirmed with the IOC that the principle of one venue still stands,” he said.

Financial concerns are another reason for opposing the second stadium plan. A senior official of the organizing committee said, “The budget will likely swell, and therefore, it would be difficult [to accept the idea].”

Mori had discussions with IOC President Thomas Bach at a luncheon on Wednesday. The IOC side informally told Mori that it backs the idea of hosting events in Fukushima and also that it will hear from the WBSC about the matter. The Japan side intends to continue negotiations with the WBSC while working in tandem with the IOC, and hopes to reach a conclusion at an IOC board meeting to be held next spring or later.

Deferring the decision to host the event in Fukushima will likely hinder preparations for the event, such as modifying the stadium and securing operation fees, and may put unwanted pressure on the disaster area.

The IOC board meeting on Wednesday came to a conclusion on the venues of five other additional events, including karate and surfing.

According to the decision, karate will be held at Nippon Budokan in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, while skateboarding and sport climbing will take place in the Odaiba and Aomi districts in Koto Ward, Tokyo. Tsurigasaki Beach in Ichinomiya, Chiba Prefecture, is the venue for surfing.

The organizing committee informed the board of its plan to cap the total cost of holding the Games at 2 trillion yen ($17.5 billion) and promoted Japan’s efforts to cut down costs.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sns-wp-oly-baseball-3ba3f012-bd5a-11e6-ac85-094a21c44abc-20161208-story.html

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