June 23 marked one month until the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. It has not been easy to come this far in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to acknowledge the effort and learn what the expectations are now, The Sankei Shimbun and JAPAN Forward sat down for an interview with Seiko Hashimoto, President of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee.
Hashimoto herself is a former Olympic athlete who represented Japan in a total of four Winter and three Summer Olympics Games. In the interview, she spoke passionately about conducting the upcoming Summer Games, and managing them responsibly while conveying safety against the coronavirus pandemic.
How do you feel about the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games right now?
I feel keenly that the Games are finally almost here. At the same time, I know that we must carefully re-examine everything we have done so far and that we will be racing [to the start day] for the next month.
Are measures against the coronavirus the most important consideration?
Everything relies on whether we can convey safety and security for the people here. Unless safety is clearly communicated, people cannot feel confident about the Games. It is important for people to say, “with these measures, the Games are safe,” so we want to make the measures more thorough.
How do you view the question that has again arisen about the significance of holding the Olympics?
I regret that until now, the Olympics were taken for granted, so they were conducted without any explanation of their significance. I think it’s time to return to the origin of the Olympics, the celebration of peace. It is also the responsibility of the Olympics to bring a sense of peace to everyone, even those far away from the venue.
Everyone wants the economy to recover, and to return to their daily lives. The Olympics are a chance to show that we in Japan can solve this problem that affects the whole world.
If we conduct the Games while making our coronavirus measures visible to the world, it will also show that we can accept foreign visitors to Japan. I want to do my best to bring a normal lifestyle back as soon as possible through holding these Olympics.
What are some successes achieved by these Olympics despite being held during the coronavirus pandemic?
Gender equality and creating a society where people can live comfortably with or without disabilities, to begin with. Then there is consideration for the environment, and the use of technology.
Another value of the Olympics is to show how Japan can undertake problems that weren’t identified before. The task is to have as many people as possible feel glad that we held the Olympics. Also, it will be a success if people look back and see the Games as a turning point.
What will the Opening Ceremony look like?
It is up to the people in charge to decide, but I believe it won’t have the showiness of past Olympic ceremonies. However, even without the large crowds, I want it to convey the concept of a promising future to everyone.
What is your message to all of the athletes gathering in Tokyo?
There have been anxieties, suffering, and sadness, but the athletes have overcome them. We are creating a stage where this will be rewarded, so please come to Japan with confidence and pride.
(Read The Sankei Shimbun interview in Japanese at this link.)
Interview by:Toshimasa Morimoto