IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a quick trip to the region northeast of Tokyo that was devastated by a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that destroyed three nuclear reactors. At right is Tsunekazu Takeda, an IOC member and head of the Japanese Olympic Committee. Photo: Kyodo News via AP

TOKYO Olympics chief Thomas Bach said Saturday he was impressed at the "great progress" made in the reconstruction of Fukushima, in a visit to the region devastated by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Amid hopes that hosting events will help revive the region, International Olympic Committee President Bach visited a stadium set to hold baseball and softball matches during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

During his visit, he told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he was "very much impressed" by the "great progress".

"The Fukushima region is the suitable place to show the power of the Olympics, the power of sports," Abe said, reiterating his hopes of showing the world the recovery of Fukushima and other disaster-hit areas during the sporting event, for which Tokyo is the designated host city.

Fukushima has also been chosen as the starting point for the Olympics torch relay.

The passing of the flame is scheduled to start on March 26, 2020, and the torch will head south to the subtropical island of Okinawa  the starting point for the 1964 Tokyo Games relay  before returning north and arriving in the Japanese capital on July 10.

The March 2011 tsunami, triggered by a massive undersea quake, killed around 18,000 people and swamped the Fukushima nuclear plant, sending its reactors into meltdown and leading to the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

Tens of thousands of people evacuated their homes. Authorities have been working to rebuild the region, about 240 kilometres (150 miles) north of Tokyo, although areas near the crippled plant remain uninhabitable because of radiation dangers.

AFP