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12 Sep, 2013 18:47

Outrage in Japan at French cartoon linking Fukushima disaster to 2020 Olympics

Outrage in Japan at French cartoon linking Fukushima disaster to 2020 Olympics

Japan’s government has voiced anger over two cartoons published by a French newspaper depicting sumo wrestlers with extra limbs in front of a crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and a radioactive pool, linking them to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"This cartoon hurts the feelings of those who suffered through the great east Japan earthquake," Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press briefing on Thursday.

He referred to the March 2011 earthquake that triggered a tsunami which damaged three of the Fukushima plant’s reactors. The incident led to a nuclear disaster with the plant accumulating radioactive water ever since. The disaster forced the evacuation of about 160,000 residents within 20 km of the plant, and thousands more just outside the official contamination zone made their own decision to flee

An official complaint will be lodged with the weekly paper Le Canard Enchaine through the Japanese Embassy in France, the government spokesman added.

One of the cartoons carried in the satirical newspaper on Wednesday showed two sumo wrestlers with extra legs and arms competing in front of the crippled nuclear plant with a sign reading "Marvelous! Thanks to Fukushima, sumo is now an Olympic sport."

A general view shows unit three and unit two reactor building (light blue, L) of the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant stands in Okuma Town, in Fukushima prefecture on March 1, 2013.(AFP Photo / Jiji Press)

Another cartoon showed people in protective costumes conducting radiation tests by the side of a pool saying "There is already a pool in Fukushima for the Olympics."

"It is inappropriate and gives a wrong impression of the Fukushima contaminated water issue. It is extremely regrettable," the Japanese government spokesman said.

Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics on Saturday, beating Madrid and Istanbul, despite the issues concerning the level of contamination at the crippled nuclear plant some 230 kilometers north of the capital.

The Japanese Prime minister has reassured the International Olympic Committee that the situation was "under control" and that he would be personally responsible for a plan to cope with the consequences.

According to recent revelations, the tritium level in groundwater near the wrecked plant has soared more than 15 times in just three days, the Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted on Thursday. In August the operator reported that 300 tons of highly radioactive groundwater was leaking into the Pacific Ocean daily. In a study published in the August edition of journal Deep-Sea Research 1 scientists predicted that the contaminated plume of water will likely reach US coastal waters in early 2014. Meanwhile, South Korean regulators have already banned the import of 50 fishery products from eight Japanese prefectures.  

The publishing of the cartoons comes amid rising concerns about the situation at the crippled plant. A similar development last year involved TV channel France 2's "We're not lying" program. The country's public broadcaster depicted a composite picture of Eiji Kawashima, the goalkeeper of the Japanese national soccer team, with four arms. The show explained that it was the "Fukushima effect" that had allowed Kawashima to make a winning save in a game between the two nations. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and the national broadcaster have reportedly apologized for the joke.