The government is pushing a plan to establish a Sports Agency in preparation for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics to be hosted by Tokyo. It is understandable that the government is eager to help nurture athletes with the potential for remarkable achievements in the Olympics and Paralympics. But it should not forget the importance of strengthening the foundation of sports overall across the country and of improving the health of the general population.
When Tokyo was granted the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the education ministry announced a goal of winning 70 to 80 Olympic medals including 25 to 30 gold medals. This is an extremely ambitious goal given that Japan won 38 medals in the 2012 London Olympics, including seven gold medals. The government should refrain from gauging the success of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in terms of the number of medals Japanese athletes win. They should remember that sports have the power to move people irrespective of who wins.
There are signs that the education ministry may provide more support to athletes for competition in which Japan has a higher chance of winning medals. Because such a policy could weaken the overall foundation of sports in Japan, it should be avoided. The government should not forget the Japanese public’s immense interest in the London Games despite Japan’s seven gold medals.
If a Sports Agency is established, it should provide sufficient support to disabled athletes as well as able-bodied ones. The government should also strive to make Japan an easier place for disabled people to live. Making public facilities and transportation barrier-free will be among its most important tasks.
The basic law on sports, which went into force in 2011, stresses the importance of the revitalization of local communities through sports and the establishment of a culture in which sports play an important role. The government should write a detailed plan on realizing the goals of the basic law so that local governments and citizens can make efforts in this direction.
When the Tokyo Games are held in 2020, slightly less than 30 percent of Japan’s total population will have passed the age of 65. The 2020 Games will provide the government with an excellent opportunity to promote ways in which senior citizens can live healthier lives.
The central and local governments, schools and sports associations should also take steps to eradicate the use of violence in sports training. While there is unfortunately a tradition of using such brutal methods in Japan, they do not improve athletes’ performances and have no place in a modern society.