Saburo Kawabuchi, the mayor of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ village, hopes that delegations from around the world will have memorable experiences during their stays at the facility.
“I’m keen to make the village unforgettable for athletes and other people concerned,” Kawabuchi, 84, said in a recent interview.
The village has 21 accommodation facilities with 14 to 18 stories to house up to 18,000 people during the Tokyo Games, which were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The athletes’ village mayor “is a role totally different from posts I have held,” said Kawabuchi. He was the first chairman of the J. League and served as president of the Japan Football Association and the Japan Basketball Association.
“This is the last big role of my life,” he said.
Measures against the novel coronavirus will be top priority for the athletes’ village, which has cafeterias and fitness facilities that will be open 24 hours a day.
“It will be good if no infection occurs, but we don’t know what will happen,” he said. “There will be no worries if we decide how to respond beforehand, preparing ourselves for some outbreaks.”
“We’ll be able to prevent the coronavirus from affecting the entire athlete village even if the worst happens,” he said.
Kawabuchi played for the Japanese national soccer team in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, contributing to its advance to the quarterfinals by scoring a goal in a match against Argentina.
“It was my dream to participate in Olympics,” he said “The opening ceremony was one of the most impressive events of my life. Just at the sounds of the huge cheer and the march, my heart leaped.”
Through this experience, Kawabuchi has things to say about proposals to simplify next year’s Tokyo Games, including potential limits to the number of fans allowed inside the national stadium and other venues.
“Holding the Olympics without any spectators would be meaningless,” he said. “The Tokyo Games should have foreign spectators wherever possible.”
While showing some understanding of the idea of limiting the number of athletes attending the opening ceremony, Kawabuchi said that there is significant value in sharing a moment in the same place.
He is worried about the current lack of momentum for the Tokyo Games, with no end in sight to the coronavirus crisis.
“A negative atmosphere is prevailing, but no doubt the Olympic fever will sweep Japan once the games start,” he said.
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