World News

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Will it be safe?

With less than a year left for the inauguration of the Tokyo Olympics, many are voicing their concerns about its safety regarding the radiation level in Fukushima prefecture and its adjacent prefectures. 

Disaster struck March 11, 2011 when a 15-metre tsunami, an aftermath of the catastrophic earthquake, disabled the power supply of three Fukushima Daiichi reactors, causing their core to melt and release radiation to the ocean and atmosphere.

Eight years later, Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, plans to use the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held in 2020, as a symbol of hope and recovery for the former Fukushima residents to return to their abandoned homes after the nuclear disaster. Abe tried to reassure the International Olympic Committee in 2013 and said that things in Fukushima were “under control”, but many, including former residents and critics, are not convinced. 

Kyle Cleveland, an associate professor of sociology at Temple University’s campus in Japan said regarding the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, “[The former residents] are going to see this as a public relations ploy.” Others, such as Hiroko Aihara, an independent journalist based on Fukushima, said, “The government has pushed propaganda over truth.” 

In addition, data collected from the actual sites contradict the Prime Minister’s claims. Journalists from The Nation traveled to Fukushima with filmmakers, activists, and experts to investigate firsthand its level of radiation. A dosimeter was used to measure the radiation when they visited Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor and it reached an alarming level of 3.77; any number above 0.23 is considered unsafe. This raises worries for those who are scheduled to run through the high-contaminated areas in the Olympic torch run. On the other hand, the radiation level near the stadiums, 55 miles away from the meltdown, where the baseball and softball games will be held, were measured at a 0.5, double the standard. These present clear evidence of likely threats to participants’ health. 

Furthermore, concerns raised are mostly about the athletes’ health over radiation exposure. The danger of radiation depends on several factors, such as the type and dose of radiation, the way one was exposed, the amount of time it stays in the body, and many more. However, exposure to radiation over a short period of time may cause skin burns or acute radiation syndrome (ARS). ARS symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and headache that may occur hours after exposure. The symptoms are recurring, and may even cause death (source). 

Despite all the evidence supporting the potential risks of Fukushima and its radiation, the Japanese government holds a firm stand and continues with the preparations for the Olympics. However, it is evident that the dangers in Fukushima are present, no matter how much the government tries to ignore them.

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