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The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games are taking place in Tokyo. But under a central government plan to build national support for the games, residents from Hokkaido to Kyushu will have the opportunity to see and interact with the athletes coming from around the world.

In advance of both games, 138 cities, towns and villages had registered with the central government as of last week to serve as host towns. Under the initiative, local governments will welcome Olympic and Paralympic delegations for cultural and sports events prior to the games themselves. In some cases, host towns will also serve as official pre-Olympic training camps.

The main purpose of the program is to promote educational and sports exchanges between local residents and visiting athletes and coaches, who will conduct workshops, give lectures, demonstrate their sport or sports through friendly games, and explain their country’s customs and cultures.

The central government will offer some financial support for the host towns, including a portion of the costs of improving local sports facilities, implementing training camps and supporting local Olympic public relations events before the games.

Host towns will hopefully maintain exchanges with the athletes and support staff of the country or countries they’ve hosted following the Olympics.

Localities that have registered to become host towns are usually focusing on one country, and more detailed plans focus on athletes in sports the particular city or town is interested in. For example, Abashiri, Hokkaido, is emphasizing its connection with Australia via rugby, and its ability to host Australian Paralympic athletes.

In Kyoto Prefecture, Kyotango has registered to host South Korean and Australian canoe teams while Maizuru plans to welcome the Uzbekistan wresting team.

Emphasizing its connections with Southeast Asia and a willingness to meet the needs of Muslim athletes, Kumamoto Prefecture is offering to host athletes from Indonesia.

Other cities have more general plans and are happy to host smaller delegations from several countries. The city of Yamagata has registered to host athletes from Samoa, Taiwan and Thailand. Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, is capitalizing on its association with 19th-century Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), who lived there briefly, by registering to host Irish Olympians.

The central government will continue to seek host town registrations next year, and there is no deadline for registration.

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