Today, on the anniversary of the 2011 Japan earthquake (11 March), Team GB and the British Red Cross have announced a partnership to inspire the British public to come together and make a positive difference this Olympic year, supporting people in crisis in the UK and overseas.
As Team GB prepares to take its most diverse team ever to the Olympic Games, it is teaming up with the British Red Cross and its network of 20,000 volunteers to inspire the public to perform acts of kindness. Motivated by the extraordinary achievements of the athletes in Tokyo, there will be a number of ways for the public to get involved throughout the year.
The launch of the partnership coincides with the anniversary of the 2011 Japan earthquake, which the Red Cross mobilised in response to. The 9.0 magnitude earthquake shook the north-east coast of the country, resulting in a tsunami that left more than 19,000 people dead. The earthquake and tsunami also triggered the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which in addition to the earthquake and tsunami, left approximately 470,000 people displaced.
Olympic Games organisers are sending a clear message of recovery for the Games in Japan, which has inspired the partnership between the British Red Cross and Team GB who aim to promote the power of connected communities to prepare for and recover from crises.
Poignantly, the Olympic torch will start its journey in Japan from the affected region of Fukushima, where Team GB athletes Katarina Johnson-Thompson, Andrew Pozzi and Adam Gemili recently visited to view the work of the Red Cross.
During a recent visit to Japan to see the work of the Red Cross, current heptathlon world champion and Team GB athlete Johnson-Thompson said: “When I stood at the former evacuation zone in Fukushima and looked out to see huge areas that are still no-go zones because of the radioactive contamination following the tsunami and nuclear disaster, it really showed the vast scale of the disaster and how much it took its toll on Japan and what many of the people have been through.
“Some of the people who were directly affected spoke with me and shared some stories. Many of them were children who told me how they had lost their homes, everything they owned, their normal way of life - it was heart-breaking. But to see how the community has come together with the help of the Red Cross shows the power of the human spirit. It really is amazing.
“They said the Red Cross was at the scene as soon as the disaster struck and are still there now, helping people to rebuild their lives so many years later and making a real difference. It was an honour to visit such inspirational children who have such a passion for life and see what a difference the Red Cross makes."
The announcement also comes ahead of representatives of Team GB – including CEO Andy Anson – visiting Motomiya City, in the Fukushima prefecture, on their latest journey to Tokyo next week. Since 2017 Team GB has supported Motomiya City, including developing a school exchange programme for local pupils affected by the 2011 disaster.
David Bernstein, Chairman of the British Red Cross said: “The Olympic Games are such a unifying event which have the ability to transcend sport and inspire people to come together.
“The British Red Cross have been supporting people in crisis for over 150 years, no matter who or where they are.
“We believe that connected communities are stronger and more resilient to emergencies. We want our partnership with Team GB to encourage the Olympic spirit in all of us, to get involved and share the power of kindness across the country.”
Sir Hugh Robertson, Chairman of the British Olympic Association, said: “We are delighted to announce the partnership with the British Red Cross ahead of Tokyo 2020 and in their 150th anniversary year.
“Nine years ago, Japan suffered a disastrous earthquake and resulting tsunami. Since then, and throughout Team GB’s journey to the Tokyo Games, we have sought to show solidarity with Japan and support our friends and colleagues at the Japanese Olympic Committee and Tokyo Organising Committee as the country continues to rebuild.
“Today’s announcement is recognition of the work the Red Cross did to support a devastated population and is the latest in a number of initiatives to show Team GB’s support for our hosts this summer.”