FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima Prefecture is still well short of its target for recruiting volunteers to help it stage some events during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics — a setback in its efforts to showcase its recovery from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
With the recruiting deadline set for the end of this month, the prefecture, due to host several softball games and a baseball game, is only a third of the way to its target of 1,500 volunteers.
Of the 503 people who had applied as of early February, 70 percent were in their 40s or above, with much lower participation from those in their teens and 20s, according to the prefecture.
Prefectural officials said the low number of applicants may be because the schedules for most of the games have yet to be set, while also acknowledging that promotion efforts have barely paid off.
One of the main themes of the Tokyo Games is to demonstrate Japan’s reconstruction from the 2011 disasters, and Fukushima, one of the hardest-hit areas, wants to use the opportunity to illustrate the progress it has made and convey a message of gratitude for support. It also hopes to promote inbound tourism.
The prefecture has increased events aimed at recruiting volunteers at company offices and colleges, while seeking to reassure potential volunteers that they can always change their minds later and withdraw their applications.
At a recruiting event in early February in the city of Fukushima, around 80 people gathered to listen to a presentation by a prefectural official on the role of volunteers.
An 18-year-old high school student who was due to start working this spring noted at the meeting that “getting the schedules soon would make it easier for us to participate.”
The first of the six softball games the prefecture is hosting will be held on July 22, 2020, in the city of Fukushima — the first event of the entire Tokyo Games — while the one baseball game it is staging will be held at the same venue on July 29.
But schedules for the five other softball games have yet to be determined.
Two types of volunteers are being sought for the 2020 Games. Those who will volunteer during actual events are recruited by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, while city volunteers such as those Fukushima is seeking to recruit, are organized by local governments and will provide transport and sightseeing information to visitors, among other roles.
“Whenever the opportunity arises, I want to call out for more volunteers by stressing how attractive (the job) is,” said Takahiro Sato, head of the prefecture’s Olympic and Paralympic promotion office.