Japanese government holds first meeting with officials from municipalities hosting athletes for 2020 Tokyo Games

Kyodo

The government on Wednesday held its first meeting with leaders of local governments which will host exchanges between residents and athletes of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as it aims to improve hospitality in the communities.

“We would like to deepen cooperation among local governments registered as host towns and build momentum throughout the country for the success of the games,” said Shunichi Suzuki, minister in charge of the games.

Some 150 leaders from prefectural governments and municipalities attended the meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.

Under the government’s host town initiative, residents will interact with Olympians and Paralympians from overseas through activities before and after the games.

Once registered as host towns, local governments will receive a special tax subsidy from the central government to cover half of their expenditures relating to exchange activities.

During the meeting, representatives from five cities briefed the government about their planned activities, setting an example for other host towns on how to proceed.

Officials from the Shibetsu Municipal Government, Hokkaido, gave a presentation on its promotion of local cuisine. Shibetsu will host a delegation of athletes from Taiwan.

Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, which was heavily damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, is registered as a special type of host town along with other disaster-stricken municipalities from Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.

This type of host town will organize exchanges between residents and people who contributed to the reconstruction of the disaster-hit area or who sent relief supplies. A tour of the devastated area will also be organized.

Ofunato has had exchanges with the United States since the U.S. dispatched a rescue crew to the city. Ofunato also plans to cooperate with Sakura, Chiba Prefecture, which will host a pre-games training camp for American athletes taking part in athletics events.

Masato Shinagawa, the mayor of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, said he found Wednesday’s meeting “insightful.”

“We would like to steer activities toward the Olympics and make them a driving force for reconstruction (efforts),” he said.

A total of 298 local governments have registered as part of the host town initiative so far, while 15 local governments in the Tohoku region have done so under the special program, “Arigato” Host Town for Supporting Reconstruction.

The government plans to hold regular meetings with leaders of host towns leading up to the 2020 Games.