Japanese not allowed to get on a bus on the grounds that “people from Tokyo are contaminated”

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Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid organizers were hoping that the international community would rally around the bid in a show of solidarity as the nation rebuilds after the events of March 11, 2011.

It now seems, however, that it may have been a flawed strategy to play the “sympathy” card as concerns over radiation are still very much on the minds of many Europeans.

After last year’s nuclear accident, Tokyo, which is bidding again after an unsuccessful attempt to land the 2016 Summer Olympics, is fighting an uphill battle–both within and outside of Japan–to host the 2020 Games. The fate of Tokyo’s 7.5-billion-yen ($93.75 million) bid appears murky as many countries have expressed unease over radiation contamination from the Fukushima accident.

The theme of national rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami has drawn mixed reactions, with critics claiming that the Tokyo metropolitan government is using the plight of people in the disaster-hit Tohoku region to win over the International Olympic Committee. Some have found the strategy distasteful while others say it is simply ineffective.

Tokyo, the venue for the 1964 Olympics, is vying with four other cities–Madrid, Istanbul, Baku in Azerbaijan and Doha–for the 2020 Games. The IOC will pick the 2020 host city at a meeting in Argentina in September 2013.

The Tokyo metropolitan government, led by outspoken Governor Shintaro Ishihara, and the 2020 Olympic bid committee became aware of the serious implications of the nuclear disaster last fall when a Paris-based consulting firm said concerns were growing in Europe about the possible contamination of Tokyo.

Japanese officials explained that the capital is more than 200 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. However, a representative of the consulting firm pointed out that to Europeans, Tokyo appears to be situated quite close to the stricken facility.

In a closed-door teleconference with officials at IOC headquarters in Switzerland last month, the Tokyo 2020 bid committee had to reassure the IOC that Tokyo was safe when asked about the impact of radiation, according to sources familiar with the meeting. When Tokyo officials submitted their bid to the IOC in February, they emphasized that the city is clear of any radioactive contamination.

“No radioactive particles have been detected in Tokyo’s tap water since July 2 last year,” proclaimed the bid files.

Unease abroad over the post-3/11 situation in Tokyo is hardly new, however. Sports officials have had to deal with the reassignment of several events scheduled for Japan and some cancellations after the nuclear disaster.

One example was the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, originally scheduled to be held in Tokyo in late March, but later reassigned to Moscow. The 2011 World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo in October also appeared to be in danger at one point, but the Japan Gymnastic Association waged a successful campaign to reassure officials in other countries that Tokyo was safe enough to host the event as scheduled. It should be noted, however, that when some members visited Germany as part of that campaign, they were not allowed to get on a bus on the grounds that “people from Tokyo are contaminated.”

The association invited German gymnasts to Tokyo and uploaded a video on its website of the visit to try to dispel the concerns of Germans and other Europeans.

The Tokyo metropolitan government and the bid committee are particularly keen to appease European officials because they have a lot of clout over the selection of Olympic host cities. One factor working against Tokyo is that among many Europeans, memories of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident are still quite vivid.

Lately, rather than constantly trumpeting the safety of Tokyo, the Japanese delegation has revamped its approach. Some felt that airing the contamination issue over and over again would only end up fueling worries among foreign officials. So now, the Japanese delegation discusses the issue in a separate meeting at international sporting events.

The theme of “national rebuilding” the committee stressed initially has proved not to be a wise approach. Tokyo officials said discussing the issue of rebuilding abroad would allow them to convey the Japanese public’s gratitude for international assistance after the quake and tsunami. The Paris-based consulting firm said that tactic might appeal to a domestic audience, but not to a global audience.

Even some in the affected region are critical of the rebuilding theme.

“(Tokyo) is trying to cash in on the disaster for its own purposes,” complained one person.

In an IOC-related meeting in Moscow in April, the Tokyo bid committee members switched the focus of their presentation to the convenience of having the Games in the center of a major metropolis.

“Underscoring the allure of our city will play in our favor abroad,” said a senior official of the metropolitan government. “The theme of rebuilding may still resonate with the public in Japan, though.”

Tokyo’s attempt to land the Games is an expensive project, and a potentially divisive one. The metropolitan government will shoulder about 3.7 billion yen of the 7.5 billion yen tab and, for the rest, solicit contributions from the corporate world. When Tokyo splashed out nearly 15 billion yen on its unsuccessful 2016 bid, it came under heavy fire at the metropolitan assembly. The metropolitan government is refusing to provide details on the spending on “strategic grounds.”

Citizens groups have raised doubts about the wisdom of laying out so much money to land the Games when Japan is still reeling from the disaster and Tokyo is facing the looming prospect of a devastating earthquake.

“If they want to tout rebuilding, the venue should be in the Tohoku region,” said a member of Tokyo ni Olympic wa Iranai Net, a group that opposes Tokyo’s bid. “It does not make sense that Tokyo is willing to shell out huge sums of money when it is reviewing its disaster response plans in preparation for a major earthquake.”





  1. Why is it that there have been no updates on the health of workers at Fukushima Daiichi in months? Surely, some workers were exposed to radiation levels in excess of the government’s maximum limits. For example, what is the health of former plant manager who reportedly has esophogeal cancer?

    1. Yes, what I’m protesting. They must disclose the health check-up result of all the workers.

  2. I’m not too suprised by this.
    In the eyes of a European, Tokyo is nextdoor to Fukushima Daiichi.
    This is because we had to destroy all crops from 1986 till 1989 due to the Chernobyl disaster and there is 1800 km between here and the Chernobyl plant.

    Footnote: We know that the disaster at Fukushima is a lot less problematic than the Chernobyl disaster, so 1800km would be a wild exaggeration for Japan, but 200 kilometers sounds like “living on the edge”.

  3. How about this approach Ishihara – Tokyo, the green energy city, affirms the lessons of Fukushima and denounces nuclear power. It will no longer accept any nuclear power from TEPCO and will build windmills and solar farms on the tops of buildings, in the sea, and on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay. Burning of radioactive debris will stop.

    Maybe this would resonate with the Europeans.

    In any case, Ishihara is old. His ideas are old. So is nuclear power.

    The future is smart grid, wind, wave and solar.

    Let’s dump Ishihara and move to the future.

    1. Not possible.
      For example: Where are you going to get all the energy to manufacture all the solar panels from when you already have a shortage?
      Second example: Japan doesn’t have the natural resources to manufacture solar panels and windmills on such a short notice.
      Third problem: Those energy sources aren’t stable sources! (Allthough one might argue about nuclear power too but it’s more stable than solar and wind for sure)

      Here’s one idea for Japan and Tokyo in particular; Start using mount Fuji as a geothermal energy souce. It’s stable and there should be plenty of energy. You’re using it for onsen too right?

      And the least you want to do when a country is in a weak state or a crisis is throwing government officials around.

  4. So the grand pooh-bahs and Olympic elitists don’t want to get fried huh?

    If anything Japan’s failure to get the olympics is a benefit, not a hazard. Seriously, take it from a Brit – the Olypmics are basically a parasitic rip-off by the 1%. They’ve even blocked off London roads for their own private use!

    Still it would have been funny to see the rich bastards shit themselves…

  5. Ex-SKF published this before and AFAIK nobody in Europe has ever heard of it nor considers this discrimination case plausible at all. We suspect that someone in Japan has made up the rumor and that it’s being spread by the media on xenophobic propaganda reasons of some kind.

    However it is surely correct that the olympic bid of Tokyo will not be: people outside Japan may be confused or intimidated by Japanese censorship/propaganda on Fukushima but they are not naive either. Every other person here knows, even if diffusely, that Japan is a dying country, at least large swathes of it.

  6. Wasteland Wally,

    Amen to that. One of the reasons why Greece is in such shitty position is certainly because of the Olympics couple of years ago. All the infrastructure did not benefit the population at all, while the state got into debt instead of putting that money into education, transportation…the usual neo-liberal crap.

    Incidentally, something very similar happened in Yugoslavia in the 1980s. Sarajevo Olympics were a big deal in 1984, but they also just pushed everyone further into debt.

    The Olympics are purely about glory and a small circle of people making deals and money. Be happy if you’re not hosting them.

  7. Japan shouldn’t be pushing for the Olympics at all. Hosting the Olympics is, more often than not, a money loser for the host city/country. All the money that would spent on the Olympics should be put towards the cleanup at Fukushima.

  8. From my own continued research/observations of Fukushima from good sources like this site, there are no workers at Fukushima. Just as with Chernobyl, the radiation has prevented any robotic or electronic equipment from working. I thought the Japanese had advanced robots ? Well, I guess they just make them LOOK advanced, in reality they are completely useless. There IS a solution, it is called Bio-robots. Japan must either send in armed forces as Bio-robots to make neccesary repairs at the cost of their lives, or recruit civilians to do the same (Maybe offer a large lump-sum payout to the family when the worker dies).

    But one thing is clear – If anyone was on site we would SEE bio-robots on the tv feeds and the odd story would leek out to us from inside the plant. I believe it has been abandoned for months.

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About this site

This website updates the latest news about the Fukushima nuclear plant and also archives the past news from 2011. Because it's always updated and added live, articles, categories and the tags are not necessarily fitted in the latest format.
I am the writer of this website. About page remains in 2014. This is because my memory about 311 was clearer than now, 2023, and I think it can have a historical value. Now I'm living in Romania with 3 cats as an independent data scientist.
Actually, nothing has progressed in the plant since 2011. We still don't even know what is going on inside. They must keep cooling the crippled reactors by water, but additionally groundwater keeps flowing into the reactor buildings from the broken parts. This is why highly contaminated water is always produced more than it can circulate. Tepco is planning to officially discharge this water to the Pacific but Tritium is still remaining in it. They dilute this with seawater so that it is legally safe, but scientifically the same amount of radioactive tritium is contained. They say it is safe to discharge, but none of them have drunk it.


May 2012