Olympics / Summer Olympics

IOC’s choice of Fujisawa for 2020 events puts wind in town’s sails

Kyodo

Officials and residents of the coastal city of Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture, welcomed on Tuesday the news that the International Olympic Committee picked its Enoshima Yacht Harbor to host sailing events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The city performed the same role in the last Tokyo Olympics, more than 50 years ago.

“I feel relieved,” Fujisawa Mayor Tsuneo Suzuki told reporters Tuesday. “It’s an overwhelming feeling the city is experiencing for a second time.”

The IOC simultaneously announced that several indoor tournaments will take place at the Makuhari Messe conference center in Chiba Prefecture.

As for Enoshima, a small island connected to the city of Fujisawa by a causeway, Suzuki said he believed the deciding factors were its proximity to Tokyo and its natural environment and weather.

He said the waves and wind allow for superior sailing conditions and gave Enoshima an edge over rival venues Mihama, Chiba Prefecture, and Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture.

“The fact that from here you can enjoy the view of Mount Fuji could have been one of the reasons why it is a good place to host the event,” he mused.

But Suzuki cautioned that if the event is going to be a success, much investment will be needed in infrastructure and facilities, including accommodations for athletes.

Moreover, the sailing events will coincide with the busy beach season, when visitors flock there to swim and enjoy the atmosphere. The city will therefore need to guard against road traffic congestion.

Fujisawa will also work closely with the prefectural government to make sure the Olympics do not take a toll on the local fishing industry, Suzuki said.

“We’ve been given the best chance to show the world the beauty of this region,” said Hirokazu Yuasa of the Fujisawa City Tourist Association, which hung a celebratory banner at the head of the island’s bustling shopping street.

Local residents and visitors to the city also expressed excitement.

“Although sailing is not popular yet, I hope the fact that Enoshima has been selected as the venue for the sailing event will help engage more women and young people in this sport,” said a 44-year-old woman from the nearby city of Zushi. She said she often visits the area to take a pleasure boat ride.

“Sagami Bay is a famous course used by sailors,” said professional yachtsman Takeshi Hara, 51. Over the course of his 28-year sailing career, Hara has taken part in competitions held by Enoshima Yacht Harbor.

“It’s close to Tokyo and I think it’s a good location for a calm and quiet race,” Hara said.

Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa pledged to do all he can to make the competition a success.

Chiba Gov. Kensaku Morita meanwhile hailed the IOC’s decision to use Makuhari Messe conference center for fencing, taekwondo and wrestling.

“We will engage all people in the prefecture to make these games successful,” Morita said.

Meanwhile, Shokichi Inaba, mayor of Gamagori, Aichi Prefecture, which missed out on hosting any events, said he was disappointed at being unable to realize the city’s dream.

“We have the best conditions to organize the competition here so I assume the reason we lost is because we are far from Tokyo,” Inaba said, adding that he himself is a keen sailor.