Six days before the start of the London Games, Japan Olympic captain Yukifumi Murakami vowed to show the world a reinvigorated nation.
Speaking at Olympic delegation’s inauguration ceremony on Saturday, Murakami made his declaration in front of Crown Prince Naruhito at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex. Japanese Olympic Committee Chef de Mission Haruki Uemura said the country will aim for 15 to 18 gold medals to reach its target of fifth place in the medals table.
“As we look toward the 2020 Olympics, we want to show the world a Japan that is more energetic than before,” said the 32-year-old Murakami, who will compete in the men’s javelin event in his third straight Olympics.
Murakami failed to make it past the preliminaries at the Athens and Beijing Games, but won the bronze medal at the 2009 IAA World Athletics Championships.
“I am proud to have been selected to represent my country. I promise to be aware of my responsibilities and give my all in upholding them as the captain.”
Japan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Olympic debut at the 1912 Stockholm Games.
“This is a new start to another 100 years. By all means, we hope to make our target and make a push toward bringing the Olympics to Tokyo in 2020,” said Uemura, who handed the delegation Hinomaru to flag-bearer Saori Yoshida at the ceremony.
Yoshida, who will be aiming for an unprecedented third consecutive gold in women’s wrestling at 55 kg, said she welcomes the challenge ahead.
“I feel happy that I can challenge to do something that no one has done before. No matter what, I have to achieve this result,” Yoshida said.
The 518-strong delegation, 293 of whom are athletes, is second in scale behind the 576 Japan sent to the 2008 Beijing Games.
A sendoff ceremony, attended by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and some 6,000 well-wishers, followed at the same venue. Murakami and Yoshida received good-luck charms made of debris from the disaster-stricken areas from last year’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“I am praying that your great performances will bring dreams, passion and courage to all of Japan,” Noda said.