National

Artists, athletes will get to shine at Sports Culture Davos in 2016

by Sayuri Daimon

Staff Writer

As Japan gears up to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, the government will jointly hold Sports Culture Davos in fall 2016 in Tokyo and in the Kansai region with the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.

During the three-day Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2014 in Tianjin, China, that was hosted by WEF and closed on Friday, Shimomura met WEF founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab. The two formally decided on the plan and discussed details at the annual meeting, dubbed the “Summer Davos.”

“We will bring over 2000 top-level artists and athletes from all over the world to the conference, which will be held in Tokyo for two days and in the Kansai region for one day,” Shimomura told The Japan Times in an interview this week.

Shimomura, minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, said the idea of hosting such an event follows a similar attempt by the British government leading up to the London 2012 Summer Games. Four years before the London Olympics, the British government organized various cultural events across the nation, helping boost the nation’s tourism even after the games, he said.

“By bringing together top-level artists to Japan, I am hoping they will become supporters of Tokyo 2020,” he said.

According to Shimomura, the Tokyo venue is likely to be The National Art Center, Tokyo, in the capital’s Roppongi district. In Kansai, in addition to the conference, Shimomura hopes to hold some cultural events during the conference period at temples and shrines, including Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto.

The idea of utilizing temples and shrines came from Shimomura’s own experience attending a concert held at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo’s Shibuya district last year.

“I had a chance to go to a concert by Japanese pop singer Fumiya Fujii held at Meiji Shrine. The concert started just after the sunset and stars were beginning to twinkle. A magical atmosphere filled the shrine at that time,” he recalled.

The song Fujii sang at that time was one he had written for the occasion of the partial rebuilding of Ise Jigu Shrine, Japan’s foremost Shinto facility, in Mie Prefecture. The shrine goes through the restoration every 20 years.

“Fujii said that he often spends time at the shrine to get inspiration for his music,” he said. “Collaboration between Japan’s traditional culture and the world’s leading artists will create something very unique and interesting.”

The plan for the Sports and Culture Davos event came as Japan is struggling to come up with a feasible solution to adjust its plans for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics by scaling down the size of the new Olympic Stadium to reduce its estimated ¥300 billion in costs to ¥169 billion, and by canceling the construction of some other stadiums due to high costs and security concerns.

Asked about these adjustments, Shimomura said they are moves to reduce wasteful spending and that the Japanese public would understand.

Japan has a lot to do to prepare for the 2016 Sports Culture Davos, Shimomura said.

“As we already have an organizing committee for the Tokyo Games, we need to start an organizing committee for this one quickly,” he said.

The committee will comprise businesspeople as well as members from the field of sports, such as members of the International Olympic Committee and the Japan Olympic Committee, Shimomura said, adding that he also wants to ask Japan’s leading artists to be part of it.

Some businesspeople who attended the Summer Davos welcomed the government’s move to hold a large international conference participated in by athletes and artists.

“Instead of having just the Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, Japan as a whole needs to promote sports leading up to the Tokyo games,” said Yoshiaki Fujimori, president and CEO of building materials and housing equipment company Lixil Group Corp.

“Sports can also be regarded as an entertainment business. Since the sports entertainment market in Japan is very small now, I hope the market will expand through this kind of events,” he added.

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