National

Diet OKs creation of national sports agency ahead of 2020 Olympics

Kyodo

The Diet passed a bill Wednesday to create a sports agency that will coordinate administration in the sector ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

The body will come into existence on Oct. 1 and will answer to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The law spells out a range of duties for the agency’s projected staff of around 120 individuals, including sharpening the nation’s sporting prowess and looking after the general health of the population.

Its first head is likely to be chosen from the sports arena rather than a lawmaker or bureaucrat, with sports minister Hakubun Shimomura saying he will “pick a person who is well-versed in sports and has leadership and governance.”

Saburo Kawabuchi, 78, top adviser of the Japan Football Association, is among the possible candidates, government sources said.

The new agency will have five divisions, including one that will help dispatch coaches overseas, and a panel of experts who will debate sports policies. The agency will also work to improve access to sports for disabled people, attract international tournaments and foster local sports clubs.

However, the agency’s main role will be to coordinate the various sports functions currently exercised by individual ministries. The government initially wanted to hand these roles to the agency itself, but abandoned the idea when the ministries put up opposition.

A separate bill to create a special ministerial position in charge of preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics is expected to be passed by the Diet later this month.