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Fukushima added as Tokyo 2020 Olympic baseball, softball venue

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TOKYO (AP) — Organizers on Friday confirmed that baseball and softball games for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be held in Fukushima, an area hit by the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster.

The International Olympic Committee approved the use of Fukushima Azuma Baseball Stadium as an additional venue for baseball and softball.

The IOC and Tokyo organizers have been eager to use the games as a symbol of recovery from the 2011 disaster that hit Japan’s northeastern region including Fukushima, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Tokyo, where entire communities fled after meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

More than 18,000 people died or went missing after a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“By hosting Olympic baseball and softball events, Fukushima will have a great platform to show the world the extent of its recovery in the 10 years since the disaster,” Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori said.

The stadium, which has hosted professional baseball games in recent years, will be renovated for the games. Yokohama Stadium, some 40km (24 miles) from Tokyo, will be the main stadium for the baseball and softball competitions.

The proposal to use the 31-year-old Fukushima stadium was approved at the IOC Executive Board meeting in Pyeongchang.

Baseball and softball were dropped after the Beijing Olympics in 2008 but have been added to the Olympic program for the 2020 Games.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic venues approved for new sports

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Tokyo 2020 venues for the new Olympic sports of baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing were approved by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday.

That brings the total number of Tokyo 2020 venues to 39, with the potential for more.

The venues for new sports:

Baseball/softball — Yokohama Stadium (20 miles south of Tokyo)
Karate — Nippon Budokan
Skateboarding and Sport Climbing — Aomi Urban Sports Venue
Surfing — Tsurigasaki Beach

All of the new sports do not currently have a spot on the Olympic program beyond 2020 (baseball and softball were previously on the Olympic program before being taken off after Beijing 2008).

Agenda 2020 reforms allowed Olympic host cities to propose the addition of sports for their Games only, which is what Tokyo 2020 did to get them on the program.

The Tokyo Olympic venues are split between two zones — the Heritage Zone and the Tokyo Bay Zone — that are separated by the Olympic Village.

Tokyo 2020 and FIFA are still discussing the finalization of soccer venues. There are currently six, including two in Tokyo and one as far away as Sapporo (650 miles north).

Tokyo 2020 and the World Baseball Softball Confederation are still discussing the potential of adding a second baseball-softball venue in Fukushima prefecture, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami. Fukushima is about 150 miles north of Tokyo.

The Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants and several MLB and World Baseball Classic games, is not a 2020 Olympic venue.

MORE: Tokyo 2020 Olympic volleyball venue could be moved

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LA 2024 Olympic bid update on baseball/softball; basketball, soccer venues

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The Los Angeles 2024 Olympic bid committee hasn’t disclosed if it hopes for baseball and softball to be part of the Games, it said Friday.

Baseball and softball were added to the 2020 Olympic program in August, but are not yet on Olympic programs beyond that.

The International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 allows local organizing committees to propose adding sports for their Games, which is what Tokyo 2020 did to get baseball, softball, skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and karate onto its program.

In a 2015 bid book from LA 2024, Dodger Stadium was listed as a baseball and softball venue if the sports were part of the 2024 Olympic program. More recent LA 2024 bid books have not mentioned baseball or softball venues.

Los Angeles is bidding against Budapest and Paris for the 2024 Olympics. IOC members will vote to choose the host city in September.

Also Friday, LA 2024 said there won’t be any basketball venues outside of Los Angeles. Currently, Staples Center is the only proposed basketball venue, though five of the last six Olympic basketball tournaments have been split between two venues.

Last year, bid chairman Casey Wasserman said other cities in California could potentially host 2024 Olympic basketball games.

One sport that’s expected to be held at venues outside of Los Angeles — and outside California — is soccer.

Preliminary matches are slated to be “across America,” and while LA 2024 said Friday it has letters of interest from many U.S. soccer stadiums, they have not been chosen yet.

The Rose Bowl in Pasadena is scheduled to host at least some quarterfinals and semifinals and both finals.

In 1984, the soccer venues (men’s only) were the Rose Bowl, the stadiums at Stanford in California and Harvard in Massachusetts as well as in Annapolis, Md.

For Atlanta 1996, the soccer venues (men’s and women’s) were in Athens, Ga.; Birmingham, Ala.; Orlando, Miami and Washington, D.C.

VIDEO: LA 2024 Olympic venue plan