The Tokyo 2020 Games have been postponed to July 2021 due to COVID-19. With about 250 days to go until next summer’s event, Waseda is preparing several different initiatives. We spoke with Naoto Onzo, Executive Vice President for Olympic and Paralympic Projects Promotion Section, about Waseda’s involvement with the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Italian national team pre-camp, and prospects after the Games.
The Tokyo 2020 Games uniquely combine education and international outreach
Waseda University has produced many Olympic and Paralympic athletes, starting with Mikio Oda (men’s triple jump), who became the first Japanese person to win a gold medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Games. A total of 58 medals at the Olympics and 27 medals at the Paralympics have been won by individuals associated with the university. Waseda, therefore, has a deep historical connection with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in terms of athletes. Many individuals from the school, including current students and graduates, are expected to play an active role in the Tokyo 2020 Games, for which representatives are now being selected.
At the same time, the Games will be an important opportunity for the university, becoming a place for both education and international outreach. Tokyo doesn’t provide many opportunities to gather people from all over the world and interact in person. I’m sure the memories and experiences gained at the event will be invaluable to our students’ lives. Waseda also emphasizes globalization and the importance of examining the world from within Japan and considering our place within it. The Tokyo 2020 Games, which are attracting the world’s attention, are of profound significance in advancing the university’s international outreach.
Focusing on independent-minded activities by student volunteers
Waseda has been preparing to host the pre-camp for the Italian national team at the Tokorozawa Campus since signing the official contract in 2018. The university already had close cooperative ties with Italy through agreements with 33 institutes of higher education. This history of friendship has led to us assisting their national team in this way. On a personal note, when I was an academic dean, I visited Italy to sign an agreement with Bocconi University.
The Tokorozawa Campus, where the Italian national team will be based, has advanced athletic facilities. It’s also close to Tokyo, where the Games will be held. The Tokorozawa Konpeki dormitory, where the athletes will be accommodated, was completed in June of this year. We are making careful preparations related to COVID-19 in cooperation with Tokorozawa City. We hope to welcome the athletes in a state of complete readiness.
We will also have many volunteers to help welcome them. VIVASEDA, a student volunteer organization, has been playing a central role in these efforts. They have been organizing various events related to the Tokyo 2020 Games and recruiting volunteers to help bring the Tokyo 2020 Games to life on campus. They are both proactive and attentive in their volunteer activities.
Participating in a volunteer program is a significant learning opportunity for students and provides them with various experiences. Being able to get up close and personal with top-class international athletes and associated individuals is an experience that can only be provided by the Tokyo 2020 Games. I hope the students will take this experience to heart in their future practice and research.
Besides the Tokorozawa Campus, the university will use its facilities in a variety of other ways, such as hosting the Turkish Paralympic Taekwondo team at the Honjo Campus, helping to make the Tokyo 2020 Games a success.
Our mission is also to carry on the legacy of Tokyo 2020
As mentioned earlier, Tokyo 2020 provides a significant opportunity to students as a place of learning and to universities as a place of education and international outreach. The Games will provide a variety of opportunities to experience internationalization and diversity. This experience will become a lifelong memory for the students who participated in the program. When these students graduate and go out into the world, they will become important assets for our university and for Japan. In terms of research, witnessing top athletes in action may lead to our students to gaining new perspectives and exploring pioneering research topics.
The experiences cultivated through the Tokyo 2020 Games will surely become a legacy for our students and our university. But how do we carry these experiences on and use them throughout the university? We can’t have this be a once-off event. The manner in which we proceed with this journey will be meaningful in the future, so our role is to create a roadmap for this. I hope that everyone will continue to pay attention to Waseda’s initiatives in the lead up to the Games.