Pedestrians cycle and walk past the logo of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games adorning the wall of a construction site in Tokyo on July 20, 2017. (KAZUHIRO NOGI / AFP)
TOKYO - Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government plans to create a “reconstruction host town” program to promote exchanges between countries and territories participating in the Olympics and Paralympics and areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, it has been learned.
Ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, the government plans to create a “reconstruction host town” program to promote exchanges between countries and territories participating in the Olympics and Paralympics and areas affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, it has been learned.
According to informed sources, the government aims to register all 127 municipalities in the three disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima as reconstruction host towns. The new program aims to boost efforts to involve disaster-hit areas in the Games and spread information on disaster reconstruction to the world, the sources said. It is also expected to enhance the image of the “reconstruction Olympics,” as the concept currently lacks concrete measures.
Registration for host towns for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics began in January last year. The government will also create a separate “reconstruction host town program.” Under the new program, all applying municipalities will be registered as reconstruction host towns, in principle, according to the sources. Additionally, the government will dispatch officials from the Cabinet Secretariat and other bodies as needed. The officials will fully support cooperation between municipalities and government ministries, agencies and the Olympic organizing committee, while connecting the municipalities with countries participating in the Olympics and Paralympics. The government might also invite Olympic and Paralympic athletes to tour disaster-hit areas after the Games, with the hope that they will spread information about the areas’ current circumstances.
The current host town program provides financial support to municipalities so they can organize exchange activities with participating countries and territories. The program is modeled on the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics’s One School, One Country program, in which a country or a territory participating in the Games was paired with a school that would cheer on the country or the territory during events. As of Sept. 14, 252 municipalities across the country are registered as host towns and have launched exchanges with 74 countries and territories in total.
In the three disaster-hit prefectures, Morioka has registered as a host town for Canada, inviting the country to hold Olympic training camps for sport climbing and other events. Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, a host town for Samoa, plans to hold a dance festival featuring Pacific nations. However, municipalities affected by the disaster have prioritized reconstruction projects, so only 10 municipalities from disaster-hit prefectures have registered as host towns.
Municipalities registered as host towns can implement sports and cultural exchange programs with partner countries and territories for the duration of the Games, with half of the project costs covered by special tax grants from the government. Municipalities can host training camps by becoming host towns, and can receive government subsidies for renovating athletic facilities.
“We are considering additional preferential measures for them,” a senior government official said of the new reconstruction host towns.
In the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was cohosted by Japan and South Korea, Nakatsue village (now Hita city), Oita Prefecture, hosted the base camp for the Cameroonian national team. The village became famous for its hospitality, which resulted in a massive influx of tourists. Exchanges between the people and Cameroon continue to this day, raising expectations for the host town program to yield similar success.
Reconstruction has been touted as the theme for the upcoming Tokyo Games. However, questions have arisen over how the theme will factor into the Games, with only Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures hosting event venues. Miyagi Prefecture will host preliminary soccer round matches and Fukushima Prefecture will host preliminary softball round matches.