Olympics: Torch relay should go past Fukushima, says governor

TOKYO (AFP) - The Fukushima authorities said on Tuesday that they wanted the Olympic torch relay to pass close to the crippled nuclear plant when Japan hosts the 2020 Games, despite uncertainties over radioactive contamination there.

Mr Yuhei Sato, the region's Governor, proposed that runners use a national highway that passes the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, where reactors were sent into meltdown after Japan's huge earthquake-tsunami disaster in 2011.

At its closest point, the road is around 2km from the plant, although Sato did not specify if runners should use that part of the highway.

"We wish to have a torch relay here so that the status of our reconstruction can be conveyed accurately," he told a news conference after meeting Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee.

Mori, a former prime minister, said his committee needs more details about the torch relay request and wants to study them closely. He also said untrue rumours about safety in the area should not prevent Olympians from having a training camp there.

On Monday, the Governor of neighbouring Miyagi proposed that the Pacific coast city of Ishinomaki, where 3,700 people are recorded as dead or missing from the tsunami, should be the starting point of the torch relay.

Tokyo, located about 220km south of the stricken Fukushima plant, beat challenges from Madrid and Istanbul to be named hosts of the 2020 Summer Games, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe vowing that the nuclear crisis was "under control".

The Tokyo organisers have pledged to help reconstruct areas hit by the 2011 disaster, which left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, ahead of the Games.

The nuclear disaster itself - the worst in a generation - is not officially recorded as having directly killed anybody.

But radioactive leaks, including contaminated ground water, have continued to pollute the environment. Tens of thousands of people remain evacuated from the Fukushima region, not knowing when, or if, they will be able to return.

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