As Japan readies for the 2020 Olympic games, radiation hot spots have been found near the starting point for the torch relay in Fukushima, environmental pressure group Greenpeace said.

Members of the group Okotowari Olympics 2020 protest outside the Japan Sport Olympic Square.
Members of the group Okotowari Olympics 2020 protest outside the Japan Sport Olympic Square. (AP)

The women’s marathon at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and all the race walks have been rescheduled, following the controversial decision taken in October to move the events out of the capital 800 kilometres north to the city of Sapporo.

Tokyo 2020 organisers announced the rescheduling on Wednesday, following discussions with the International Olympic Committee and World Athletics, to ease the burden on National Olympic Committees and athletes travelling to northern Japan.

It now means that all the marathon and race walk events are scheduled to be held on four consecutive days, from August 6 to 9, with the men’s marathon remaining on the final day of the Games, as per tradition.

“Athletes’ health and well-being are always at the heart of our concerns, and the decision to move the marathon and race walk events to Sapporo shows how seriously we take such concerns,” the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission chair, Kirsty Coventry, said in a statement.

Both marathons will start at 2200 GMT (7:00 am local time). The women’s marathon was initially set for August 2.

The IOC stunned Games organisers in October by announcing the marathon, one of the most prestigious events at any Olympics and one especially beloved in Japan, would be moved to the northern Japanese city of Sapporo to avoid the worst of Tokyo’s summer heat.

Tokyo temperatures in July and August, when the city will host the Games, regularly exceed 30 degrees Celsius with high humidity adding to the discomfort.

“We appreciate that… Sapporo Odori Park could be approved as a venue so quickly following the decision to move these events,” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto said.

“With less than eight months to go until the opening of the Tokyo 2020 Games, Tokyo 2020 will continue to work closely as one team with all the parties involved in their preparation.”

The October decision did not go down well with organisers, who had already done extensive planning for the events, including a series of cooling measures for the athletes, nor with the Tokyo governor, who reluctantly consented to the move.

When Tokyo hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964, they were held in October — an option no longer possible due to international sports schedules. Next year’s Games run from July 24 to Aug. 9.

High levels of radiation found near starting point – Greenpeace

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace said on Wednesday it had detected what it called radiation "hot spots" near the starting point for the upcoming Olympic torch relay in Fukushima, northeastern Japan.

Japan's environment ministry said the area, in general, was safe but added it was in talks with local communities to survey the region ahead of the Games that open on July 24. 

Greenpeace urged fresh radiation monitoring and continued clean-up efforts, saying its surveys had shown areas of high readings near J-Village, a sports complex located about 20 kilometres from the nuclear plant damaged in the 2011 tsunami.

The Japanese government is keen to use the Olympics to showcase Fukushima's recovery from the disaster and intends to use J-Village as the starting point for the Japan leg of the torch relay starting in March.

Originally designed as a training centre for athletes, J-Village functioned for years as a logistics hub for crews working to control and decommission the crippled reactors.

After a clean-up process, the sports centre became fully operational again in April this year, shortly after Japanese Olympic officials decided to use it as the starting point for the torch relay.

Greenpeace said they had detected high radiation spots, as high as 1.7 microsieverts per hour, when measured one metre above the surface.

This compared with the nationally allowed safety standard of 0.23 microsieverts per hour, and a normal reading in Tokyo of around 0.04 microsieverts per hour.

The hotspots showed a reading of 71 microsieverts per hour at the surface level, Greenpeace said.

However, J-Village's internet site says the radiation reading at its main entrance was 0.111 microsieverts per hour on Wednesday, while one of its fields showed a reading of 0.085 microsieverts per hour.

Tokyo Electric Power, which operates the Fukushima plant, said it cleaned the spots on Tuesday after the environment ministry told the company about them.

Greenpeace said it had relayed its findings to the Japanese government as well as local and international Olympic organisers.

The group will publish a report of its findings in the region next year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies