With a little over four years to go before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, discussions in Japan are gearing up about what positive legacies will come from the international sports extravaganza, sports minister Hiroshi Hase said in an exclusive interview with The Japan Times in January.
As the next country to host the summer Olympic Games after Rio de Janeiro in August, Japan will hold the first “World Forum on Sport and Culture” in October as a kick-off event to energize the Olympic and Paralympic Games movement.
The international conference is scheduled over multiple days: from Oct. 19 to 20 in the cultural heart of Japan, Kyoto, and from Oct. 20 to 22 in Tokyo, the host city of the games.
With support of the World Economic Forum, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology will invite leaders from both public and private sectors — including businesspeople, athletes and leading artists — to exchange opinions about how sports and cultural assets in Japan can be used to bring about new opportunities to create legacies for 2020 and beyond.
Starting from 2018, northeast Asia will be the center of international sports competitions over five years; from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018 to the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019, the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, the World Masters Games in Kansai in 2021, and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, Hase said.
“Peaceful relationships are a fundamental condition of holding such events,” he said. “Of course, there are diplomatic and security challenges to overcome. But I believe promoting harmony in this region will be one of the main roles of the World Forum on Sport and Culture.”
Hase also said the international conference would be a great opportunity for young business leaders and innovators to enjoy cross-sectoral collaboration by discussing the possibilities of creating new economic and cultural ecosystems surrounding the “soft power” of Japanese culture such as fashion, tourism and healthcare.
A former high school teacher and well-known professional wrestler, Hase said Japan could become a role model for other countries with its unique sporting spirit, which he said represents Japanese people’s sense of virtue.
For example, Hase said the notion of kata, or forms, practiced in Japanese budo martial arts such as judo, kendo and karate represent the spirit of harmony, courtesy, integrity and humbleness inherent in Japanese culture.
“Kata is to perform patterns of movements with both offense and defense working together,” Hase said. “This is not to merely trace a fixed pattern of movement; without each side understanding its core meaning, kata cannot be accomplished.”
In addition, Hase pointed out three notable attractions that Japan has can attract overseas guests to the 2020 Olympics; new innovations, washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, and high public safety.
“For the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Japan contributed to the proliferation of colored TV internationally, something I believe was a prime example of Japanese innovation,” Hase said.
He said that for 2020, he hopes the world can see new innovations in areas such as information and communications technology, materials for manufacturing and technologies to make the lives of disabled people better.
“I would like to introduce not only Olympic athletes, but also spectators from around the world to healthy washoku cuisine, which was registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. I also want them to experience the safety consciousness of people in Japan,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hase said he hopes the 2020 Olympics will serve as a symbol of restoration from the devastation of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, demonstrating to the world how the country worked together for recovery, so as to encourage those who suffer not only from natural disasters, but also from other struggles of life.
“Facing an enormous struggle, we can cooperate together in harmony to overcome a challenge, rather than making a difficult situation worse — this is the fundamental virtue by which Japanese people live,” Hase said.