HASHIMOTO Seiko took office as the President of the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Thursday 18 February 2021. Hashimoto participated in seven editions of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games. She won a bronze medal at the 1992 Albertville Games in speedskating. As the new President of Tokyo 2020, she is fully determined to hold a successful Games and shares her plans for the near future.
My whole life is about the Olympics
You were born in 1964, days before Tokyo held Summer Olympic Games for the first time. As “a child born for the Olympics”, you have been deeply involved in the work of Tokyo 2020 and now you are the President. What does the Olympics mean to you?
I think for my whole life, the Olympics has been part of it. My father watched the Opening Ceremony of Tokyo 1964 at the National Stadium. There he had the dream that his child would become an Olympian in the future. So, he gave me the name “Seiko”, which comes from “seika”—translates as Olympic flame in Japanese. From then on, the Olympics has become my lifework. My life has been about the Olympics and I think my life from now on will be all about it.
It is like destiny that now you are the Tokyo 2020 President. How do you feel about being deeply connected with the Olympics and Paralympics?
Since I set the goal of competing at the Olympic Games, I was lucky enough to have participated in seven editions. I had acute nephritis when I was at the third grade of primary school and was hospitalised for two months. During my high school years I had a recurrence of the disease, and hepatitis B as well. I think it was the goal of becoming an Olympian that helped me get through all these difficulties. All of us face various problems, and I think it is a blessing that I could overcome these problems. I have lived my life with gratitude towards the Olympics and Paralympics. I would like to keep this kind of mindset in the future.
As a developed country, Japan is in a position to solve the social issues faced by the world
It is the athletes’ wish that the Games would be one supported by the public. As an athlete, and as one who has been involved in the Olympics as a head of the Japanese delegation, how do you plan to work with them?
The athletes are the centre of Tokyo 2020. They are the centre of Olympic and Paralympic Games. More than that, they are the centre of all sports events. There are those who support the athletes and create the stage for them. I believe that sport has the power to connect various fields such as education, culture, art, environment, and tourism. There are values that are unique to sports. As an athlete and one who supports athletes, I think athletes are not only an industry. They hold the strong power that can provide emotional support to people.
In a situation where the world is trying to get COVID-19 under control, people may ask whether there is any significance of having the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. The biggest task (for us) is to think way of relieving people’s anxiety. For example, under the strict circumstance, the athletes could adhere to the disciplines, continue their training while following the COVID-19 prevention measures. This kind of practice can be connected to education. I also think the experience of COVID-19 would help us improve preventive medical care. Medical care for athletes is not only about symptomatic treatment. The athletes also need to protect themselves based on solid preventive medical care. I think this also an issue faced by the whole society now. With rational fear towards COVID-19, it is important for us to make use of our experience overcoming the pandemic and build a legacy.
Because of COVID-19, there are some negative sentiments surrounding Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. In your opinion, what is essential to get the empathy and support of athletes, the Japanese public and the partners?
I think there is no other event that could unite the world as one and get that much attention like the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I think the Games will get the attention from the whole world, with questions like how we can implement the COVID-19 countermeasures during the Games and how people would live their life and run the business in a time full of restrictions.
Besides COVID-19, the world is facing various social issues. Ageing population, food issues, poverty, and terrorism, all these are challenging issues that the world has not confronted before. It is a chance to show to the world that Japan and Tokyo can solve the problem one by one. I believe and wish that Japan can be a developed country in solving the social issues faced by the world. Tokyo 2020 is more than the pinnacle of sport events. As the host city, as the host country and as the Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, it is our mission to bear this question in mind - how to make the Games an opportunity to realise and create a sustainable and a fulfilled society.
While you are facing many difficulties and challenges, would you please share with us your thoughts as the new president?
How can we get through the COVID-19 situation? What are the significance and values of hosting Tokyo 2020? These are the questions I am facing now. With Tokyo Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, I wish to show people the beauty of the athletes’ motion and the beauty rooted deeply within them. I wish to let people know the importance of having the Games that are welcomed and creating a sustainable society.