Ambassador's Blog

A testament to human endeavour

September 2012

Goalball players Rie Urata (left) and Eiko Kakehata (right), who went on to win gold for Japan

It is hard to believe that a month has already passed since the ending of the spectacular London 2012 Olympic Games.  Now, indeed, the Paralympics have just finished, and they were equally memorable. On the evening before they started, the Embassy held a reception for the members of Japan’s Paralympic team. The goodwill towards the Japanese athletes at the event was palpable. 

I reminded them that they had come to participate in the Games at a time when public interest in them throughout the world had never been greater.  Moreover, not only would the athletes be striving for their own satisfaction, but through their fortitude and determination they would be a source of hope and encouragement to the many people back in Japan still grappling with the task of rebuilding their lives following the devastating earthquake and tsunami last year.

Furthermore, with the host city for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be selected next year, the Japanese athletes knew that compelling performances from them could do nothing but benefit Tokyo’s chances of being selected.  There was no doubting their resolve to give their all.

Like everyone following the Games as they unfolded, I was extremely impressed by the sheer guts and perseverance of the participants from all of the competing countries.  Each of the events revealed something new about the ability of the human spirit to overcome adversity. At the same time, such was the enthusiasm and the sheer skill of the participants that my enjoyment stemmed purely from the high level of the performances. For instance, at the Men’s Swimming on Saturday 1 September I was really excited to see Tomotaro Nakamura win a silver medal in the 100m Breaststroke thanks to his miraculously strong kicking. Five days later I watched the Men’s Wheelchair Tennis Semi-Final in which Shingo Kunieda overcame his Dutch opponent in a breathtaking display of skill and power. He was a worthy recipient of a gold medal.

Volunteers that helped the Japanese team

Goodbye speech on the morning after the closing ceremony

The Paralympic Games formally ended for the Japanese delegation with a Disbandment Ceremony, which took place at a hotel in West London on the morning of Monday 10 September. It was preceded by a press conference, attended by almost 50 Japanese journalists. This figure provided a dramatic illustration of the degree of interest the Games had aroused in Japan, as the number of journalists present on previous occasions had seldom exceeded ten or so.

The Ceremony was attended by more than 200 Japanese athletes and officials, together with a group of Games Makers (local volunteers) who had assisted the Japanese contingent. Both the athletes and officials invariably expressed satisfaction with the overall organisation of the Games (including the rather un-English good weather!) and the degree of support and enthusiasm towards them displayed by the public. In addition, they paid tribute to the generous assistance extended by the volunteers assigned to look after the Japanese participants. There was general agreement among the Japanese present at the event that, as a fellow capital city of a mature developed economy, London 2012 would turn out to be a valuable source of inspiration in Tokyo’s final preparations for its bid to win the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Keiichi Hayashi

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