The Sporting Community Continues Engaging Four Years after the Tohoku Disaster

The Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee today marked the fourth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake by reaffirming its unwavering commitment to supporting the recovery of the affected areas and to showing the world how sport has contributed to uniting and revitalising Japan.

While a minute's silence was observed at the organising committee headquarters, Tokyo 2020 Sports Director Koji Murofushi was attending a commemoration ceremony in Ishinomaki, one of the affected cities in Miyagi prefecture, before meeting with local junior high school and high school students.

"I have known some of these children for almost four years now," said Murofushi. "I have watched them growing up and I can certainly testify that their mindsets have become much more positive over that time."

Together with local children, Murofushi cleaned the 1964 Olympic Cauldron, which is currently being housed in a public park in Ishinomaki City since demolition work began on the National Stadium last year. "When the Olympic Cauldron was in the National Stadium in Tokyo, I used to clean it once a year and it became a kind of a tradition. With it currently being in Tohoku, this year it is even more important for me to keep the tradition alive," he added.

Recovery of the disaster-affected areas is not only a national effort - the global sporting community has also provided much support and encouragement. In addition, the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee is planning various projects aimed at assisting the recovery efforts and fully engaging the local community in the delivery of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. These include the Olympic Torch Relay, and a range of cultural and educational activities.

An event currently taking place in the Tohoku region is the 14th Youth Leadership Camp, which is hosted by both the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace and Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. It brings together 30 young participants from 17 countries to share their own experiences with local communities and it will offer training on how to use sport as a rehabilitation tool in areas affected by natural disasters. As part of this, the participants will visit a disaster-affected town and learn about the actions undertaken in the process of post-tsunami recovery.

Wilfried Lemke, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace said: "This is a very special event for us, as it will remember the terrible disaster that struck this area four years ago and left the local area in need of redevelopment. Sport has been instrumental in the regeneration of this community, and through the Youth Leadership Camp, we plan to demonstrate how sport is extremely effective at addressing certain social issues that are related to post natural disaster communities."

"I hope all these collective efforts will inspire people of all ages and demonstrate the power of sport to act as a force for positive change," concluded Murofushi. "I believe that over the last four years we have already seen the important role that sport can play in society. This is this inspiration we want to share in Tokyo in 2020."
Koji Murofushi and local children