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Major international sporting events bring together people from different cultural backgrounds, offering a chance for world peace and economic and cultural empowerment. Over the next several years Japan has an excellent opportunity to lead the world as it hosts major sporting events and cultural festivals.

The World Forum on Sport and Culture, to be held in Kyoto on Wednesday and Thursday and in Tokyo from Thursday through Saturday, will offer people both inside and outside Japan to discuss the importance of culture and sports. The forum expects to draw 4,000 people, including domestic and international government officials in charge of sports and culture, the heads of international promotional groups, top management of global companies, leading journalists and others.

In Tokyo, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games President Yoshiro Mori, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont and World Economic Forum (WEF) Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab will each deliver greetings or speeches. The forum will see sports ministers, Olympians and Paralympians and business executives discuss the social and economic contributions of sport.

The World Forum on Sport and Culture is being held as Japan is in the spotlight as a venue of major international sporting events, including the Rugby World Cup 2019, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Kansai World Masters Games 2021.

Government officials, including sports and culture ministers from about 50 countries, are scheduled to attend the forum, the scale of which is only rivaled by UNESCO’s International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS).

“We hope the forum will heighten people’s momentum both inside and outside Japan and more people from abroad will invest in and visit Japan,” said Kumi Fujisawa, advisor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Technology, as well as the head of the Office of World Forum on Sport and Culture. “Another thing we would like is to see the forum give people the excitement of feeling that ‘something fun is going to happen’ and help boost national confidence.”

The ministry, the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Sports Agency are the hosts of the forum, while Kyoto Prefecture, the city of Kyoto, the Nippon Foundation and ETIC. (Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities) are co-hosts. Additionally, the World Economic Forum supports the gathering.

The Kyoto part of the forum is mainly about culture, while the Tokyo event focuses on sport and business, as well as culture.

Cities hosting the Olympics and Paralympics often hold events related to sports and culture prior to the Games, but the World Forum on Sport and Culture “brings together sports, culture and business; such a comprehensive event is very rare in the world,” said Yuichi Tokiwagi, a sports and culture ministry liaison officer and the director in charge of the forum.

In Kyoto, there will be a number of conferences on culture, with government officials of various countries participating, as well as various performances, including those by a tea ceremony master, a wheelchair group and a Japanese singing group.

There will also be artistic performances such as a wheelchair performance and a concert with mixture of Japanese and western instruments — taiko Japanese drums, shakuhachi, koto, violin, viola, contrabass and others — at Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Also, a Public-Private Workshop will be held in Tokyo, in which people representing culture, sports and business will discuss themes such as “Japanese pop culture: Beyond Cool Japan,” “What Will Digital Technology Bring to Human Beings?” and “Can Good Health Generate Money?”

Kyoto, Japan’s center of traditional culture, and Tokyo, the political and business capital that is the host of the 2020 Games, are the ideal venues to hold such an international sports and culture event at a time the world is looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as well as other international sports events happening in Japan during the next four years, just a few months after the Rio de Janeiro Games.

“Having the two venues is important. If it’s only Tokyo, the movement won’t spread across Japan,” Tokiwagi said.

The ministry is hoping to spark momentum throughout the nation. There will be a number of subsequent sports and cultural events that the ministry, as well as the culture and sports agencies, will endorse.

Clearly, the momentum began with Tokyo’s winning the bid to host the 2020 Games in September 2013. Former minister Hakubun Shimomura wasted no time in maintaining the momentum, speaking to professor Schwab from the WEF about holding an international forum on sports and culture.

In 2014, the Japanese government decided to hold the forum and the ministry set up the Office of World Forum on Sport and Culture in May 2015, Tokiwagi said.

The significance of the partnership with the WEF is its ability to send messages to the world. Japan can overcome language barriers and send strong messages to the world by having the support from the WEF, which is the organizer of the annual international business conference known as Davos, inviting many world-renowned politicians, business people and other influential people as speakers, panelists and attendees.

The WEF can also invite such people to the World Forum on Sport and Culture. Of the 4,000 expected visitors, some 300 or 400 are so-called Young Global Leaders and Global CEOs, who already have strong connections to the WEF.

Needless to say, the forum itself has an economic impact as many business and government executives from all over the world will visit Kyoto and Tokyo, spending money on airfare, hotels and shopping. The event has attracted other big events near the forum venues, such as Innovative City Forum, Culture Vision Tokyo, Roppongi Art Night 2016, Tokyo “Suki” Festival (SukiFes) in Ueno Cultural Park, and Co-Creating Future For 2020 and Beyond. These are also cooperation events, and their synergetic effects cannot be ignored.

But Fujisawa and Tokiwagi believe the forum is just the beginning of a greater momentum luring more visitors and investment from overseas.

“The measurement of success is not just how many visitors there are or how many visitors are satisfied with the forum. It’s how the forum will stimulate the art and sports industries,” Tokiwagi said.

“We would like people to see how this event will lead to the next big movement,” Fujisawa said.


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