The Daily Manila Shimbun


2 Years to Go: 2020 Games Biggest Driving Force for Japan

August 10, 2018

Tokyo- Toshiaki Endo, vice president of the organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, sees the quadrennial sporting events as the "biggest driving force" for Japan.

More than half a century has passed since the previous Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games were held, in 1964, when Japan was in the middle of rapid economic growth.

The 2020 Games will come as Japan continues working hard to achieve the reconstruction of areas heavily affected by the March 2011 huge earthquake and tsunami that mainly hit the Tohoku northeastern region and the subsequent serious accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s  Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station.

The country, which is also experiencing a population fall, will face the challenge of what legacy it can leave through the hosting of the international festivals of sports.

In the 1964 Games, Japan "displayed to the world its recovery from the aftermath of World War II," including the establishment of such infrastructure as expressways and the Shinkansen bullet train system, Endo, former minister for the 2020 Summer Games, said in an interview with Jiji Press.

Noting that the important thing in the upcoming games will be how Japan should demonstrate its presence, Endo said, "I think that the country this time needs to show to the world that it will promote its development further by producing soft legacy."

The number of foreign visitors to Japan, which stood at about 10 million in 2013, is expected to top 30 million this year, said Endo, a lawmaker in the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Diet, Japan's parliament.

"While the fixed population in Japan is decreasing, the fluid population will likely continue to increase sharply, helping rev up the economy," he said.

"The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics are serving as the biggest driving force for Japan, with companies in the nation striving to bolster their operations toward that year," he said.

Endo is upbeat about the number of medals that could be won by Japan in the 2020 Olympics, citing the Japanese Olympic Committee's target of 30 gold medals.

"Given that Britain won 29 gold medals in the 2012 London Olympics, there's no reason why Japan can't win as many (in the Tokyo Olympics) since its population is almost twice as big as Britain's," Endo said.

Japan captured 16 gold medals each in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics, the highest number of golds won by the Asian country in a single Olympics.

The number of medals for Japan has been increasing steadily, partly thanks to significant roles being played by the National Training Center and the Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, Endo said.

In the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Japan won a total of 41 medals, the most on record for the country. They were 12 golds, eight silvers and 21 bronzes.

"We'll collaborate with universities and sports facilities across the nation to enhance the abilities of athletes," Endo said.

He stressed: "These efforts will not end with the 2020 Games, but will, I believe, help nurture those who take part in sports in many regions. This will be one of major legacies we can leave."

North Korea has indicated its willingness to take part in the Tokyo Games, but some say that it would be difficult for Japan to accept the country in the events if the issue of Pyongyang's abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago remains unsolved.

"When we bid to host the games, we vowed to operate the 2020 Games based on the Olympic Charter," which calls on all nations to cooperate through sports, Endo said. "If North Korea says it wants to join, Japan, of course, will have to follow the charter."

In the past, North Korea has participated in international sports competitions hosted by Japan while facing sanctions, he also said.

If the IOC approves the formation of a unified team of North and South Korea, Japan will have no choice but to accept the decision, Endo said.

Endo, however, underscored that "Japan needs to continue saying that it absolutely opposes Takeshima being depicted" on a Korean unification flag even if the two Koreas are allowed to form a unified team for the 2020 Games.

Takeshima is the Japanese name of Sea of Japan islets at the center of a territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea, which calls them Dokdo. The islets are under the effective control of South Korea and claimed by Japan.

Endo defended the aim of the Japanese government and the Tokyo organizing committee to promote the reconstruction of areas affected by the March 2011 natural and nuclear disasters through the Olympic and Paralympic Games as they call the events the "Reconstruction Olympics and Paralympics."

When Tokyo bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games, some questioned why the events would have to be held in Japan while communities affected by the disasters are struggling so hard to rebuild the areas, Endo recalled.

Still, he said, "We received support from well over 100 countries after the disasters," adding, "It's very meaningful to showcase to the world that Japan has made marked progress in its postdisaster reconstruction efforts thanks to the support from around the world."

Endo pointed out that the three prefectures hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunami--Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima--are each set to host the Olympic torch relay for three days, compared with two days allocated to many other prefectures outside Tokyo. In addition, baseball and softball games will be held in Fukushima, home to the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, he noted.

"The games would deserve to be called Reconstruction Olympics and Paralympics only if people from the three prefectures take part in and cooperate with the events in various ways, such as using foods produced in the areas (for meals for Olympians and Paralympians)," Endo emphasized. Jiji Press