RIO DE JANEIRO – The International Olympic Committee is to award former Japan Football Association president Saburo Kawabuchi and 1964 Tokyo Olympic women’s team gymnastics bronze medalist Kiyoko Ono the Olympic Order for their outstanding service to the Olympic movement, Kyodo News learned Monday.
A ceremony for the 79-year-old Kawabuchi, who was a key player for Japan’s men’s soccer team in the 1964 Games, and Ono, 80, will be held when IOC president Thomas Bach visits Japan for the World Forum on Sport and Culture in October.
The Olympic Order is the highest award of the Olympic movement and is handed out for particularly distinguished contributions, recognizing efforts worthy of merit in the cause of sports.
The Japanese Olympic Committee, in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, recommended Kawabuchi and Ono and gained approval from the IOC Executive Committee.
The last Japanese to receive the Olympic Order was Eiichi Kawatei, the International Tennis Federation’s honorary life vice president, in 2012.
Kawabuchi served as the first chairman of the J. League.
Last year, he served as co-chair of a reform task force mandated by FIBA, basketball’s world governing body, to overhaul the Japan Basketball Association and establish a new men’s pro league. (The new circuit, the B. League, combines the old National Basketball League, NBDL and bj-league.)
Ono, who like Kawabuchi has experience as vice president of the JOC, has been recognized for her contributions in promoting women’s sport.