Fukushima dogs Japan on road to Tokyo 2020

TOKYO may be dubbed a safe choice to host the 2020 Olympics. But in fact the road ahead to 2020 is fraught with risks due to the ongoing toxic water crisis at Fukushima nuclear station.

To members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Tokyo probably looked more attractive than Madrid or Istanbul, since Japan has neither the complicated economic problems of Spain nor the threat of political instability that confronts Turkey.

Besides, Tokyo can be depended upon to get the necessary Games infrastructure - from stadiums and highways to the no-less-important athlete's village - in time for the big event.

Perhaps the IOC did not want sleepless nights over the sort of construction delays that plague Rio de Janeiro, the 2016 Summer Games host, and Sochi, which will hold the 2014 Winter Games.

But there is another reason Tokyo is considered a "safe" bet. Told that Tokyo's image had been hurt by the toxic water situation at the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a last-minute change to his speech in the final presentation to IOC members.

He declared: "Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo."

He even went on to say that the tainted water in the small harbour next to the plant was "completely blocked".

But for experts in Japan, it is clear that the Fukushima situation is far from being "under control".

The Japanese media did not call Mr Abe's statement an outright lie, but the Mainichi Shimbun daily noted the "obvious gap between Mr Abe's words and reality".

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in a rather unconvincing bid to rescue Mr Abe, said that while the water in the harbour was not completely sealed from the sea, its toxicity is way below acceptable limits. "What the Prime Minister meant to say was that the impact of the toxic water in the harbour is completely blocked," Mr Suga concluded.

Many Japanese would disagree. A survey by the TV Tokyo network found that 64.6 per cent of the Japanese people were astounded by the PM's remarks.

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