Nuclear crisis fails to bump Japan race - for now

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 18, 2011 2:47 AM
Nuclear crisis fails to bump Japan race - for now

By Alastair Himmer

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's nuclear crisis has failed to force the International Triathlon Union (ITU) to cancel next month's world championship race in Yokohama -- for now at least.

The ITU told Reuters on Monday they were still collecting data to determine if the sea at Yokohama harbor, around 300 km south of the stricken Fukushima plant, was contaminated.

"The safety of our athletes is always our top priority," said ITU media manager Masa Takaya, when asked about possibly having to pull the plug on the May 14 race.

"The ITU executive board and senior leaders discussed the situation at length and took many aspects into consideration.

"Reports and information from international bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations were considered."

Olympic champion Jan Frodeno has blasted the decision to race following the disaster, triggered by the last month's 9.0 magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami wave.

Workers battling to avoid a catastrophic meltdown have been forced to pump radioactive water into the sea.

The ITU race requires its athletes to swim 1.5 km in Yokohama's sea, and Takaya insisted a U-turn was possible if data showed they faced any risk from the sea water.

"(There are) very strict ... water quality tests that must meet ITU standards," he said. "The ITU will continue to monitor the situation and any associated health and safety issues.

"At this moment (the race) is going ahead as planned but we are continually monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action if necessary."

Despite Frodeno's reservations, other athletes have indicated they will compete in the race, which offers Olympic qualification points, if deemed safe.

The deadly March 11 quake and tsunami left 28,000 people dead or missing, and devastated vast areas of northeastern Japan.

"The ITU is keen to provide athletes with updates on the situation in Yokohama so they can make an informed decision," Takaya said.

(Editing by Patrick Johnston. To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)