Remarks of Ambassador Mitsuru KITANO at 'Tokyo Olympics: The Countdown' Webinar, 30 June 2021

Good morning everyone.

I would like to thank the Ireland Japan Association (IJA) for organising this Countdown event for the Tokyo Olympics. I would also like to convey my gratitude to my fellow guests for their great efforts and support for the upcoming games.

I am sure we all agree that the Tokyo Olympic Games will take place under truly extraordinary circumstances. They were postponed for a year. Now they will go ahead this summer. But spectators from abroad will not be allowed. There will be strict protocols for athletes and officials to combat the virus.
The Government of Japan and the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee are both committed to hosting the Games safely and securely. At the same time, I know that various people have various opinions about the upcoming Olympics. Some people are concerned whether this is the right moment to hold the games. Some are not comfortable with the strict safety rules. Others also wonder, if full spectator capacity isn’t allowed, what is the point of holding the games? All these concerns come back to the central question as to what the Olympic Games are organised for and who they are held for.

There are numerous possible answers, and no single right answer. But, as far as I am concerned, when I ask myself this question, I think about the athletes. I think about a Japanese swimmer, Rikako IKEE, for example. At the age of 16, she represented Japan in seven events at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016. She was a hopeful to win several medals at the Tokyo Olympics until she was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2019. After being hospitalised, all her attention had to be focused on medical treatment for survival rather than training. She had to give up competing in Tokyo. However, having made an excellent recovery with hard-working rehabilitation, she returned to competition last summer. This April, she qualified in the national selection. She will swim one of the legs in the 4 by 100 metre relay in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

The case of Rikako IKEE is only one example. Every athlete has their own story to tell, as the wonderful RTE programme “Horizon Tokyo” indicates. and the Olympics are the culmination and intersection of all these individual stories. That is why they give us courage to overcome difficulty and provide a sense of respect beyond nationality, race, gender or whatsoever. This is my perspective on the central question I mentioned earlier.  

Japan is honoured to host this great event amid the present difficult environment. The current situation requires special efforts on the part of many people to make it happen. So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved, athletes, officials from various organizations, media, sponsors and volunteers, in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games.

I am delighted to see more and more Irish athletes qualifying for the Olympics every week. I wish them and all the athletes from around the world very good luck as they perform to the best of their ability in a safe and secure environment. Their endeavour will certainly be a precious gift for us all.

Thank you very much.