BOA chief executive Bill Sweeney confirmed the agreement with Motomiya city ©Getty Images

British Olympic Association (BOA) have agreed a partnership with Motomiya city in Fukushima Prefecture, which will see relationships built between schools in the area and promote recovery efforts following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

BOA chief executive Bill Sweeney visited the city prior to Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly last month.

The visit came after Motomiya approached the BOA with a view to partnering.

An initial relationship had been struck when Gigyo Takamatsu, Mayor of Motomiya, visited the BOA’s offices with around 40 schoolchildren earlier this year.

A repeat visit is now planned, while the relationship is expected to now see several British athletes head to the city to talk to schoolchildren after they have finished competing at Tokyo 2020.

"It was the start of a really good relationship and they will be coming back to London again next summer,"  Sweeney told insidethegames.

"We will hook them up with other schools in the UK and hope to build a relationship that goes beyond 2020.

"We are looking at taking athletes post competition up to Motomiya, where they can talk about the value of sport, their careers and how they go into it.

"We will also see if we can link up some of these kids, if they have an interest in sport as a career, with universities in the UK.

"We already have a partnership with SOAS [University of London] in the UK, so we can hook them up with that as well."

Japan hopes Tokyo 2020 will promote recovery efforts in Fukushima following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami ©Getty Images
Japan hopes Tokyo 2020 will promote recovery efforts in Fukushima following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami ©Getty Images

Motomiya is located in the Fukushima Prefecture, a region devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami which killed around 16,000 people.

The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are seen as a vital marker in the efforts to rebuild the region.

The Torch Relay is set start in Tohoku, located in the prefecture on March 26 in 2020, while Olympic baseball and softball matches are also due to be held in Fukushima.

Recovery efforts have been highlighted by IOC President Thomas Bach visiting Fukushima with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe last month, while food produce from the region was served to members of the IOC Coordination Commission here last December.

The latter was part of efforts to highlight the safety of produce grown, with many countries having now eased their restrictions on food imports which had been in place due to fears of potential contamination due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Sweeney expressed his hope that the partnership with Motomiya city could have the dual benefit of increasing awareness of the region and helping some of those affected to recover through sport.

"I had not been up to Fukushima before the earthquake, but the devastation was massive,” Sweeney said.

“It was interesting talking up there, as it is not just about the physical restructuring, but it is also the mental confidence, considering some of the damage it did to families and communities.

“A good distraction from that and a good way to recover is through sport, so I think it has a role to play.

“Anything we can do to increase the awareness of the region, it would be a privilege to do that.

“While there is a focus on performance, it is nice to have partnerships in the host country, just like we did in Brazil.

“We have got some really great partnerships, including our preparation camp.

“We have had some outstanding support from the Japanese Olympic Committee.”

IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited Fukushima recently ©Getty Images
IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe visited Fukushima recently ©Getty Images

Sweeney also expressed confidence in the BOA’s preparations for the Games, having secured training venue contracts for three sport facilities last March.

Keio University in Minato, the Todoroki Athletics Stadium in Kawasaki and the Yokohama International Swimming Pool will all be used by British athletes prior to the Games in 2020.

The three sites, all based in the Greater Tokyo area, will allow athletes the opportunity to acclimatise and complete their final preparations.

“Preparations are going really well,” Sweeney said.

“When you look at Rio, we felt really confident going into that with our preparations and this is going even better again.

“I think we are probably ahead of the curve in where we are now, we will have a really well-developed prep camp.

“You get the sense here that the city is really ready for it, even though we are around 600 days out.

“The venues look great and there seems to be a confidence.

“Japan also have a very aggressive medal target so that will be interesting as well."

Britain will hope for a similar performance to Rio 2016, where they won a total of 67 medals surpassing the 65 they won at London 2012.

Their performance saw them become the first-ever nation to better their medal haul at a Games that immediately follows a home Olympics.