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Editorial: Volunteers play key role in ensuring 2020 Tokyo Games are a success

  • October 17, 2019
  • , The Japan News , 3:48 p.m.
  • English Press

Training of the volunteers who will keep the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics running smoothly has started. These volunteers should support the success of the Games with their spirit of omotenashi, or hospitality.


At least 120,000 people will be involved as volunteers during the Games. About 80,000 will have roles at competition venues and the Athletes’ Village, and at least 40,000 volunteers will guide and provide information to tourists and other people at airports, major stations and other locations.


Sixty percent of the volunteers assigned to competition venues are women, and 12 percent are of foreign nationality. A good balance of volunteers of all ages, ranging from their teens to their 80s, has been accepted. It is expected these volunteers will handle the wide range of needs of people who visit the competition venues.


Their tasks will include helping with baggage inspections, looking after athletic equipment and driving the vehicles that will shuttle Games-affiliated officials between venues. The volunteers will handle many important roles.


To prevent accidents or problems from occurring, the Tokyo Games organizing committee must ensure volunteers undergo repeated training and know their jobs inside out.


Organizers must also take all possible measures to counter the summer heat. During a test event held this summer, drinks and cooling patches were handed out to staffers, which resulted in reducing the heat’s impact to a degree. Every possible measure, such as erecting tents to block direct sunlight and keeping work shifts short, should be implemented.


All residents should help


It will also be important for volunteers to deepen their understanding of other cultures. Some everyday gestures in Japan can make people from other countries feel uncomfortable.

Volunteers should be aware of ways to support people with disabilities, too. Do not grab the white cane that people with visual impairments use as their eyes. Be sure to inform a person in a wheelchair before you start or stop pushing them, so they do not get startled. Consideration of even small matters like these is required.


The posting of messages on social media by volunteers should be carefully noted. Messages showcasing their own activities are no problem. However, taking photos of athletes at Games venues could disrupt their concentration ahead of competition. Posting images without authorization could also violate their privacy.


This spring, a staffer at a marathon in Kyushu sparked a scandal by writing a blog post that contained a discriminatory remark about African athletes. Volunteers must firmly keep in mind the fact that such careless actions could tarnish an international sporting event.


At least 200,000 people applied to fill the 80,000 volunteer positions that will provide services at competition venues and elsewhere. This illustrates the high level of interest in the 2020 Games.


One of the Tokyo Games’ core concepts states that all Japanese citizens will welcome visitors from around the world. There are many ways people can be of assistance, such as offering to help tourists on the street who might be in need.


Having many Japanese, including volunteers, interact with foreign visitors with smiles will brighten up people’s impression of the Tokyo Games.

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