People of all ages and nationalities came together on 16 November at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre for the first training session for English-speaking Tokyo 2020 volunteers.
Nestled in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, the former site of the Athletes’ Village from the Tokyo 1964 Olympic Games played host to the training session with more than 500 people taking part.
About 200,000 people worldwide applied for 80,000 “Field Cast” volunteer positions with around 12 per cent being non-Japanese, which is higher than in previous Games. The applicants were from 120 nationalities.
For many of the volunteers, this was their first contact with the Olympic and Paralympic Games and also their first opportunity to meet many of their future colleagues.
The session was divided into two parts. Firstly, the volunteers received a briefing on the history and significance of the Games, as well being introduced to some of the activities which they will take part in next year. They were also told about the emblems of the Games, the mascots or the new sports that will be part of Tokyo 2020’s programme.
During the session, a former volunteer, Nishikawa Chiharu, told the attendees about his experience in previous Games.
“I was a volunteer for the first time at the London 2012 Games. The experience changed my life. After that, I also volunteered in Sochi 2014 and Rio 2016 and decided to return to my home country to be part of this experience again,” he explained.
“You will be working together as a team for quite a long time. After spending ten days together, you’ll become comrades. You will develop some lasting friendships.”
Diversity and Inclusion
During the second part of the training, volunteers were told about the commitment to diversity by Tokyo 2020 while receiving small training on how to help people with impairments.
“The Games will be a good opportunity to think about accepting diversity and creating a symbiotic society. Many people in the past didn’t know how to approach people with impairments. However, once the Paralympic Games had been held, people’s mentality changed, and it became a society that would naturally reach out to people in need,” said Nishikawa.
There are many different reasons why volunteers wanted to take part in the Games. Herath Pathirannahalage Pasindu, who is a 21-year-old student from Sri Lanka, wants to give back to Japan.
“I am receiving a scholarship from Japan and I want to give back to the country. I also want to meet people from different places, make new friends and get new experiences,” he said.
For Eva Park, a 38-year-old American, this is a great opportunity to take part in a “once in a lifetime experience”.
“This is such an important event for the athletes, for all the countries and for Japan. I am very excited about meeting new people, to talk with them, and give back. I want to be able to walk away at the end of the Games knowing that I contributed in some way.”
After listening to different presentations and taking part in some quizzes, the session ended with the volunteers writing messages to themselves in 2020.
Volunteers will need to wait until next March when they will be notified of their role and location during the Olympics and Paralympics and will begin specific training.
Training for overseas residents will be hosted in Japan just prior to the start of the Games, commencing June 2020.