A big part of the pitch for the 2020 Games by the Japan Olympic Committee to the IOC in 2013 was that the Tokyo Olympics would appeal to youth. Along those lines, new sports added to the Games in 2020 are skateboarding, surfing and rock climbing.
At the Tokyo 2020 preview at the end of the Rio Olympics closing ceremony, the world was pleasantly surprised by the emergence of Prime Minister Abe as the world-renown game character, Super Mario.
Anime, the catch-all phrase for Japanese produced comics or animated television or film, has enjoyed a boom internationally. It is a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States alone. Japanese manga in English can be found liberally in bookstores or online. Japanese anime film directors like Hayao Miyazaki and Osamu Tezuka are global icons. And of course, illustrated characters from Japanese games, television programs and films are re-drawn in daydream doodles, their costumes adorned, and their merchandise snapped up the world over.
So yes, who will begrudge the TOCOG (Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee) the opportunity to make a few extra gazillion yen with Tokyo2020-Sailor Moon bags, and Tokyo2020-Dragon Ball hats.
Another study has revealed another issue in planning for Tokyo2020. According to a Japanese Sports Agency panel, there are concerns that Japan won’t have the necessary manpower to ensure drug testing is handled effectively and in a timely fashion.
According to a recently released report, Tokyo2020 will need approximately 200 analysts rotating in round-the-clock shifts every day during the Olympic Games, in order to complete an estimated 6,500 tests. Each test has to be completed within 24 hours of receipt of the sample.
Currently, there is only one lab in Japan that can conduct drug tests to the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and they employee 15 analysts. Their turnaround time for a drug test is 10 days.
I have no doubt that Tokyo2020 will figure out how to efficiently and effectively process the required drug tests by the time the Tokyo Olympics roll around, but it will not be easy to find the talent. As a Human Resource professional working in Japan, I am fully aware of how fierce the war for talent is in this country. Manpower.com, in its most recent Talent Shortage Survey, announced that the country where employers are having the most difficulty filling roles is Japan, by far. In fact, Japan has been the most difficult country since 2010.
Japan, in comparison to other countries in Asia, has a significantly low level of English capability, which impacts all organizations in Japan that require involvement in international endeavors or global markets. The technical sales, managerial, IT, engineering or design skills may exist in Japan in abundance, but the inability to communicate efficiently in a common global language like English can often slow down the pace of cross-boundary projects. And one of the biggest cross-boundary projects to hit Japan, perhaps the biggest, will be the 2020 Olympics.
Right now, the number of people in the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) who can interact with members of the IOC and individual National Organizing Committees has got to be low – in other words, so much is dependent on the few people who can speak English.
In 2020, who will be the ones who will coordinate with all of the visiting national teams, the international press, the highly technical demands of the dozens of international sports federations, the thousands of foreign athletes, and the tens of thousands of foreign tourists that arrive en masse for a few weeks in July, 2016?
More interestingly, what innovative ideas will emerge in the coming four years that will help Japan meet the demanding requirements of Tokyo 2020? What technologies will emerge as game changing? What tweaks to hiring or immigration policies will be revealed?
The Olympics can be a wonderful opportunity for change and growth in Japan.
One of the most iconic images of Japan is the cherry blossom. It is both symbol and example of beauty that charms young and old, cynic and saint, natives and non.
The beauty of the cherry blossom is inherent, but enhanced by time – the uncertainty of when they bloom, whether March or April, and the brevity of their bloom.
For about two weeks, we are enthralled by the sakura, whether it is a single blossom, a lone cherry tree on a road, or a park-filled celebration of delicate pink and rose-tinted white. We forget ourselves as we stare from an elevated train platform into a sea of cherry trees, filled both with hope and humility.
That period is just commencing in Tokyo.
When Tokyo won the bid for the 2020 Summer Games, the logo for that bid was a wreath of cherry blossoms. Designed by an arts graduate student from Tokyo University, Ai Shimamine, the ever-present logo showed a ring of cherry blossoms in the Olympic colors of red, blue, green and yellow, with black replaced by purple. Shimamine submitted her design organized by the Tokyo bid committee believing that the cherry blossom was an excellent way to represent her country, according to this interview.
Cherry blossoms are our national flower that represents Japan and are loved by many. They also symbolize the Japanese spirit, as cherry blossom trees have been sent to countries around the world as a tribute to peace and friendship. The most important point about this logo is that it is a wreath. I once saw a scene in a foreign film where a wreath was laid on a grave and wondered about the meaning behind the gesture. When I looked it up, I discovered that wreaths carry a message of “coming back again.” I took this concept and infused the hope that Japan will recover its vigor and courage through sports.
The cherry blossom logo was popular, and certainly linked to the tremendous feelings of happiness and pride when Tokyo won the bid for 2020. But, for some reason still unclear to me, the International Olympic Committee does not allow the local organizing committee to use the candidate city logo as the official logo for the Games and Paralympics.
Thus, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) had another competition last year to select a new logo, which turned into a PR fiasco. Many of the logo corporate sponsors, eager to show off the new logo, had to rush to change their marketing materials and commercials to replace the now notorious logo, and TOCOG launched yet another design competition. Open to the public, the initial draw yielded over 10,000 designs. Subsequent rounds dropped the number of entries under consideration to four.
The final design, according to this website, is supposed to be decided by the Emblems Selection Committee sometime in the Spring. Exactly when is not clear. But that, I suppose, is the beauty of Spring in Japan.