• Kyodo

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Former Japan Football Association President Saburo Kawabuchi has been appointed head of the athletes’ village for the 2020 Olympics, Tokyo Games organizing committee chief Yoshiro Mori said Thursday.

The 83-year-old, who Mori lauded as having “led the sports world in Japan,” will deliver the welcoming remarks to athletes and staff next summer before they move into the waterfront venue in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward.

“I’m incredibly happy and honored. It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” Kawabuchi said.

Mori also revealed that Kodokan Judo Institute President Haruki Uemura, a former judoka and 1976 Olympic gold medalist, will act as “mayor” for the athletes’ village.

The organizing committee also named five deputy heads that will support Kawabuchi and Uemura, including 1988 Olympic swimming bronze medalist Mikako Kotani, former Paralympic shooter Aki Taguchi and 1984 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Hideaki Tomiyama.

Two-time Para-alpine skiing gold medalist Kuniko Obinata and former wheelchair basketball player Shinji Negi have been tasked as deputy heads of the Paralympic village.

“Together with the acting head and deputy heads, I’m determined to do my best to create a comfortable and cozy place for athletes coming from around the world and make it a profoundly memorable athletes’ village,” Kawabuchi said.

A former national soccer team player and manager, Kawabuchi represented Japan at the 1964 Olympics when Tokyo first hosted the Summer Games and made huge strides in developing professional sports across the country upon retiring from competition.

He helped professionalize Japanese soccer as one of the founders of the J. League and served as its inaugural president. He became president of the JFA in 2002.

After stepping down as JFA president in 2008, Kawabuchi turned his attention to reforming Japanese basketball, establishing and presiding over the B. League while serving as chief of the Japan Basketball Association.

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