Power of Sports Boosts Miyagi Recovery

MIYAGI PREF. – More than eight years since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami devastated Tohoku region, the local people are recovering from the catastrophe using the power of sports.

Miyagi Stadium is the biggest stadium in the Tohoku region. Although a part of the roof was damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake, it served as an emergency operation hub for domestic and foreign rescue workers for several months after the quake.

“In 2011, all of a sudden everything has changed because of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami,” Rifu Mayor Yutaka Kumagai said during a foreign media tour of Miyagi Stadium, a 49,000-seat facility in the northeastern Japan town that will host 10 men’s and women’s football matches at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Kumagai speaks to a group of foreign journalists during a media tour organized by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) that aims to showcase the recovery efforts in Tohoku region.

“At the time, the common anxiety of the victims was how can we get through the situation, how can we afford the money for rebuilding for a simple daily life,” he narrated.

Through various sport events, their spirits were raised.

Tour de Tohoku is a bicycle event held since 2013 for the purpose of supporting the restoration efforts and preserving the memories of the 3/11 disasters.

“We realized and recognized the power of sports. It is turning into an energy for reconstruction from the disaster,” said the Mayor.

A new Onagawa Town is born after being one of the hardest-hit areas by the tsunami triggered by the March 2011 earthquake. The water was 14 meters high when it enveloped the coastal town, killing more than 800 residents.

Kumagai, who expressed his gratitude for the help his town had received from different countries all over the world, is looking forward to hosting the quadrennial sports event next year. “Tokyo 2020 will be the symbol of the reconstruction of Rifu,” he stated. - Words by Florenda Corpuz, Photographs by Din Eugenio