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2014年10月11日 (土)

東京五輪半世紀 あの感動を2020年にも

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Emotions of 50 years ago return in anticipation of 2020 Tokyo Games
東京五輪半世紀 あの感動を2020年にも

The Olympic flame was lit at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Oct. 10, 1964, a fine autumn day. Just half a century has passed since the Tokyo Olympics opened in exultation on that day.

The Tokyo Games, which drew the participation of 93 countries and territories, was the first Olympics held in Asia. It was a major event that showed the world a Japan that had achieved rapid reconstruction from its devastation by war.

The women’s volleyball team, dubbed “The Witches of the Orient,” and the men’s gymnastics team won gold medals. These and other spectacular performances by Japanese athletes thrilled the nation.

The outstanding performances of foreign athletes — including marathon gold medalist Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia and Soviet women’s gymnastics gold medalist Vera Caslavska — also made a lasting impression in the minds of many Japanese people.

The 1964 Tokyo Games left behind a number of legacies, including the National Stadium and other venues for Olympic events, which have been used for various sports since. The Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train service and Tokyo monorail started operation in 1964, and the Metropolitan Expressway running through central Tokyo was also built.

Thus, the Tokyo Olympics sparked the construction of urban infrastructure that has led to the creation of Tokyo as it is today.

We again feel the passage of time on the 50th anniversary of the Tokyo Games.

Masae Nakamura (whose maiden name was Kasai), captain of “The Witches of the Orient,” died in October last year. The gymnasium at Komazawa Olympic Park, where the final volleyball match between the Japanese and Soviet national teams was held, will be dismantled due to age.

When final Olympic torch runner Yoshinori Sakai, who lit the Olympic cauldron, died in September this year, many middle-aged and elderly people were said to have been deeply moved.

Prepare carefully

On the other hand, the number of people who did not experience that thrilling moment half a century ago has been increasing. So it is all the more delightful that there will be yet another chance to light the Olympic flame in Tokyo.

Preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics have been put into high gear. It is essential for all those concerned to make concerted efforts to carry out the necessary projects carefully.

The Tokyo metropolitan government has been reviewing plans to build competition venue facilities, as construction costs are estimated to swell significantly due to spikes in material and personnel costs. As long as public money is to be invested, it is natural to work toward reducing costs as much as possible while eliminating wasteful spending.

But it must be noted that the main venue facilities will remain as legacies for the future after the Olympics. So care must be taken to make them viable in the long term. It is necessary to accelerate the construction of the new National Stadium, which has been delayed due partly to the cumbersome bidding procedures for the project.

It is essential to improve systems for hosting foreign athletes, players and spectators. Preparations must be made in both the fields of hardware and software to improve information infrastructure and make it easier to access the Internet, to introduce a multilingual system for street guidance signs and signboards, and to improve the public’s abilities in conversational English to deal with foreign visitors.

Such endeavors will become valuable assets for Japan in its aspirations to become a tourism-oriented country. We hope the Tokyo Games will be a fantastic sports extravaganza that presents a model of how the Games should be held in a developed city.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 10, 2014)Speech


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