Ambassador's Blog

A sporting spectacle to savour

August 2012

Like most people in the United Kingdom and millions more around the world, I could hardly take my eyes off the action during London 2012. The entire two-week spectacle, from the stunning Opening Ceremony through the sporting events themselves to the equally memorable Closing Ceremony, was managed most impressively. The traffic chaos and other problems that had been widely predicted  failed to materialise.  I feel the British Government and people deserve great credit for this achievement.

Naturally, I was following the fortunes of the Japanese contingent with particular interest! This year marks the centenary of Japan’s first participation in the Olympic Games – in Sweden in 1912.  Moreover, while the Games were taking place in London for the third time, they were the first in which Japan had taken part. For this reason, at the reception for the Japanese Olympic team held on 5 August, I mentioned my wish for 100 medals for Japan – enough to compensate for the two Games from which Japan had unfortunately been absent!

During the last 10 Olympic Games, Japan has won an average of 24 medals. The fact that we had already surpassed that figure by the time of the reception was a source of great satisfaction for everyone concerned.  During the following week we enjoyed further success and can take great pride from our total of 38 medals, the largest number of medals that we have won at any Olympic Games.

At the Olympic Village welcoming ceremony

These Games were, of course, significant for Japan in other ways as well. They were taking place less than a year and a half after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck the Tohoku region. Thus they provided the perfect opportunity for us to thank our friends in the United Kingdom and, indeed, in the entire international community for the tremendous solidarity, support and practical assistance extended to Japan following that disaster.

Coinciding with the Games was ARIGATO in LONDON, a series of cultural events and attractions, including a sake bar produced by footballer Hidetoshi Nakata, designed to express Japan’s gratitude to the citizens of the United Kingdom in general.  Attended by officials from the region that bore the brunt of last year’s catastrophe, it was the perfect complement to the Olympics in demonstrating to the world that we are well on the road to recovery.

The past two weeks have seen a great display of skill, sportsmanship, friendship and camaraderie that have built bridges and brought countries and peoples together. I am very happy at the performance of my compatriots, which has given great heart to the people recovering from last year’s disaster.

Meeting Hidetoshi Nakata at ARIGATO in LONDON

Some of the Japanese Olympic athletes display their medals

I should also note that these Games were the last to be held before the venue of the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games is chosen. As Tokyo is one of the three candidate cities, our message to the world is clear: we are ready, willing and able to do the job!  Japan is back!

Keiichi Hayashi

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