Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: Fulfill Japan’s pledge to the international community
SASAKAWA Yohei / Chairman, The Nippon Foundation

June 22, 2021
On June 1, a little more than a month before the opening of the Tokyo Olympics, the women’s softball team from Australia came to Japan, leading the way for foreign teams competing in the Olympics. Members of the teams, media and sponsor organizations from various countries are continuing to arrive in Japan.

Great Significance of Hosting the Olympics and Paralympics
Japan came to host the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, pledging to hold them in the spirit of “o-mo-te-na-shi” (generous hospitality) and in a safe and secure manner. Teams of athletes are being sent from a number of countries that have faced or are facing far more serious challenges of COVID-19 than Japan has, because they believe that Japan will hold the games in a safe and secure manner.

Opinion polls indicate that there are still persistent voices demanding the games to be cancelled or postponed again, tending to split the nation into two camps arguing for and against. However, what we need now is not to debate whether or not to hold the games but to strengthen our efforts to hold them in a safe and secure manner. That is our responsibility as the host country, and we owe it as a courtesy to the many countries that supported our hosting of the Tokyo Olympics.

At the same time, the games, to be held amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, will be an important opportunity to reaffirm the solidarity of the international community in overcoming the pandemic. As such, these games will have a unique, unprecedented place in the history of the Olympics.

Due to COVID-19, spectators from overseas will not be received, and the games will be less colorful and more compact in appearance than had been envisioned at the time when Tokyo was selected as the venue at the International Olympic Committee in 2013. However, the Olympics and Paralympics this time will have far greater significance and implications than those held under normal circumstances.

Opportunity to Reaffirm the Need for Solidarity
Last March, I made an appeal in this column (Seiron, Sankei Shimbun) entitled “Surmount all difficulties to host the Olympics and Paralympics”. I wrote that these games, which will attract countries from all over the world and will be the focus of world attention, would be the most appropriate opportunity for the international community to reaffirm the need for mutual cooperation and solidarity in overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, I argued, we should surmount all difficulties to make this a reality.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading all over the world, to an extent second only to the Spanish Flu in 1918-1920 that afflicted 500 million people all over the world with more than 50 million fatalities. It is producing one new variant after another. It would thus be extremely difficult, even if the infection is brought under control in one country, to prevent further infection in today’s world characterized by active and incessant movements of people.

It is only through the advance of international cooperation such as close exchanges of information and joint development and dissemination of vaccines among countries that we will begin to see the possibility of overcoming COVID-19.

On June 2, the Japanese government cohosted the virtual summit on coronavirus vaccines with Gavi, the international vaccine alliance. There, to about 40 participating countries, Japan explained its continuous support to the vaccine alliance through its financial contribution amounting to US$ 200 million and announced its additional contribution of US$ 800 million. In my understanding, this was designed not just to help the developing countries but also to accelerate international solidarity in these efforts.

Naturally it is up to other specialized agencies to work out the concrete steps. The role of the Olympics is to help foster the momentum for these efforts. I do hope that the Japanese government and the organizers of the Olympics and Paralympics step up their efforts to this end as we approach the opening of the games.

COVID-19 has already infected 170 million people in the world and claimed more than 3.7 million lives. This long battle with the pandemic is taking its toll on people’s lives and economies to the point of extreme exhaustion. The conditions surrounding people with disabilities and women are rapidly worsening. It would be difficult to overcome COVID-19 without the international community joining forces. International solidarity is called for more than ever as we tackle the wave of My Country Alone-ism and exclusionism rapidly spreading around the world.

15,000 athletes and 78,000 members of the media and sponsor organizations are expected to come to Japan to take part in the games. They are being required to have their vaccination completed before coming to Japan and to undergo PCR tests and strictly abide by the restrictions on “going out” while in Japan. The measures to be put in place to prevent the spread of infection during the games can provide useful reference as each country contemplates the strengthening of its own measures. It is also suggested that global warming may give rise to the possibility of some hitherto unknown virus triggering a pandemic. The Olympics and Paralympics provide an opportunity to reaffirm the need to be ready for such contingencies.

It is vital that government and private sectors join forces to successfully hold the Olympics and Paralympics, as a proof that the international community is working in solidarity to overcome the pandemic. If we succeed, the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will have a special place in the history of Olympics in multiple senses.

Capacity of Sports to Invigorate Human Beings and Society
Sports have an immeasurable capacity to invigorate human beings and society. The Olympic torch relay, which started last March in Fukushima, is proceeding as planned. Even though we may not be able to cheer them directly on site, we can draw inspiration and courage from the way the athletes will tackle their challenges with passion and determination. We also wish to laud the athletes who have withstood rigorous trainings under the trying circumstances of COVID-19.

I do hope that we can send as many uplifting messages of hope as possible though the Olympics and Paralympics, so that we can encourage the people around the world who are suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. After all, there can be no Japan without the world.

As we share the appreciation of the significance of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics with people in many countries of the world, we can make Japan’s presence felt more widely in the international community.

Yohei Sasakawa is Chairman of The Nippon Foundation. This article was published in the June 10, 2021 edition of Sankei Shimbun.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

笹川 陽平 / 日本財団会長

2021年 6月 22日

















一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics: Fulfill Japan’s pledge to the international community