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Expectations high in Japan with Olympic year under way

  • January 16, 2020
  • , Jiji Press , 9:00 a.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, Jan. 16 (Jiji Press)–Expectations are running high in Japan with the year of the 2020 Olympics now under way.


The Tokyo Summer Olympic Games will run from July 24 to Aug. 9, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 25 to Sept. 6.


The Japanese capital will host the quadrennial sporting events for the first time in 56 years. Including winter games, the Tokyo Olympics will be the fourth Olympics to be held in the country.


Those who played a part in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics hope that the upcoming games will be as successful as its predecessor was.


“I want to see great excitement and deep impressions like those experienced 56 years ago,” says Kazuo Goto.


He remembers the blue sky on the Olympic opening day in October 1964, when Goto, then a high school student in Kanagawa Prefecture, ran as a torch bearer.


“I was happy that I was allowed to play a part in the games,” Goto says, stressing that Japanese athletes, including marathon runner Kokichi Tsuburaya, gave him confidence through their performances.


This year’s Olympics will have a record 339 events in 33 sports, bringing together about 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries and regions. Five sports have been added: baseball and softball, karate, sports climbing, skateboarding, and surfing.


“I have never seen an Olympic host as prepared as Tokyo at this stage before the Games,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in a New Year’s message. “All the elements for successful Olympic Games are already in place.”


The 2020 Games “will also be a celebration of unity in diversity of all humankind,” he also said, adding that athletes from all 206 national Olympic committees around the world and the IOC refugee team “can look forward to an amazing experience.”


The Japanese Olympic Committee aims for the country to garner 30 gold medals, against 16 in the 1964 Olympics. Japanese athletes are expected to get strong results particularly in swimming, judo, wrestling and gymnastics.


Billed as the “Reconstruction Olympics,” the 2020 Games will kick off with a softball event to be held two days before the opening ceremony in Fukushima, the capital of the namesake prefecture hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami as well as the subsequent nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 power plant.


The previous Tokyo Olympics also symbolized reconstruction for Japan, which had risen from the devastation of World War II.


In preparation for the 1964 Games, Japan built transportation infrastructure such as the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train line and the Metropolitan Expressway, as well as sports facilities. Many hotels and “ryokan” inns opened.


These were tangible legacies of the 1964 Games.


This time, the Tokyo metropolitan government puts more emphasis on leaving intangible legacies, such as spreading the concept of inclusiveness and flexible working styles.


The metropolitan government is promoting off-peak commuting and teleworking at companies and public entities, as well as nurturing volunteer culture. About 120,000 volunteers are seen working just for the Olympics.


Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike also attaches importance to fifth generation, or 5G, communications, hoping that the use of advanced technologies will help shore up economic development and resolve social problems.


“The invisible highway of radio waves will be a key infrastructure of the 21st century,” she said.


“Koike focuses on ‘soft’ legacies rather than ‘hard’ legacies,” said an official related to the 2020 Games. “If former Governor Shintaro Ishihara had been deeply involved, he would have launched infrastructure investment to revamp Tokyo, similar to redevelopment in London (ahead of the 2012 Olympics there).”


“The focus should be placed on ‘soft’ legacies,” an analyst at Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc. <3636> said, adding that many problems in a mature society such as Japan cannot be solved through approaches that depend on hardware.

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