IOC President Thomas Bach met three young baseball players during a visit to Fukushima ©IOC

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach today joined Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to visit Fukushima, the region devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. 

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

It is due to hold baseball and softball during Tokyo 2020.

Bach and Abe visited the Azuma Baseball Stadium, the host for the matches to be played during the Olympics, and met 60 youngsters who played baseball and softball. 

Bach, who arrived in the Japanese capital yesterday to attend the Association of National Olympic Committees General Assembly next Wednesday and Thursday (November 28 and 29), also spoke with local high school students and met Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori.

"Sport and baseball have given hope to you and your families," Bach said.

"And sport has helped you to overcome many challenges as well as giving you the opportunities to meet team-mates and friends. 

"In the end, this is what sport is all about."

Fukushima has also been chosen as the start of the Tokyo 2020 Torch Relay. 

The passing of the flame is scheduled to start on March 26 in 2020 - a date that will mark the ninth anniversary of the disaster which killed 18,000 people and destroyed three nuclear reactors.

Areas near the crippled nuclear plant remain uninhabitable because of radiation dangers.

During a meeting with Bach, afterwards, Abe told him: "Japan was determined to showcase progress in the recovery of the region."

He praised the IOC for its "courage in deciding to have softball and basebaĺl in Fukushima during the Olympic Games".