JOC taking steps to address crises

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

After a series of scandals that have rocked the sports world in recent weeks, the Japanese Olympic Committee is working to improve how it handles its societal duties.

At the same time, the JOC recognizes the urgency to work to restore public faith in Japanese sports at a time when Tokyo is a finalist for the 2020 Summer Olympics bid.

On Wednesday, the JOC assembled more than 130 officials and executives from 58 sports’ domestic governing bodies for a seminar about higher standards and ethics in athletics. The event was held at National Training Center in Tokyo’s Kita Ward.

The seminar consisted of two parts.

For the first half, lawyer and JOC compliance committee member Takashi Iida gave a lecture on the importance of compliance for JOC-affiliated sports organizations.

Iida emphasized that in this era sports federations need to possess a higher sense for compliance and governance than in the past, because they have greater social responsibility.

Iida also said that sports is one of the most prominent areas in the world that has advanced in terms of globalization, and that the assembled executives need to be aware that they represent the country in their respective sports.

“Sports is a frontrunner of our globalization,” he passionately said. “I would like you to put that deep inside your heart.”

For the latter part, a pair of guest experts spoke about governance in sports organizations, citing some positive examples of other countries’ federations.

Yusuke Nagai, director of marketing at Athlete-Brand corporation, discussed how some successful examples of foreign sports organizations, such as the American Softball Association and England Basketball Federation, have become successful financially and expanded their grassroots efforts.

Nagai, who had worked in the New York Yankees’ baseball operations division, also referred to Britain’s national coach-development program. According to his explanation, the European country, despite its government’s tough financial circumstances, has spent an enormous amount of money on the program, because it directly affects athletes’ performance and results in international competition, mainly the Olympics.

He also mentioned Canada as another nation enacting a successful coach-developing program.

Tomiyasu Takase, meanwhile, talked about how a sports organization ought to cope with scandals.

He referred to how the United States Swimming Federation has changed after more than 30 youth coaches in the past decade received lifetime bans for sexual misconduct with their swimmers.

Takase, a research expert for the WIP Japan Corporation, said USA Swimming originally tried to cover up those scandals, but eventually launched a sports safety program in order to reform. Now, when witnessing any misconduct or abuse — like the violence that took place during training camps of the Japanese women’s judo team before the London Olympics — he or she can report to the program by transmitting a form through USA Swimming’s website at any time.

After the four-hour seminar wrapped up, perhaps feeling their daunting tasks ahead, the sports officials left the room with grave, if not reluctant, expressions on their faces.

“We’ve seen a series of scandals lately, but we are going to move forward to a new level, reflecting on what we heard today,” said Koshi Onozawa, a senior director of the All Japan Judo Federation.

Japan Swimming Federation executive director Masafumi Izumi said: “We need to improve what we should improve and we’ve got to do so as soon as possible, because that will lead to our bid for the 2020 Olympics.”

On Thursday, the JOC held a meeting for various coaches from Japan’s sports federations at National Training Center. Among the topics discussed was coping with violence between athletes and coaches.