Ambassador Kitano's Speech at the Official Team Ireland Tokyo 2020 Olympic Homecoming

Date: 29 October 2021
Venue: Dublin Castle

Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD,
Minister Catherine Martin TD,
Minister of State Jack Chambers TD,
Ms Sarah Keane, President of Olympic Federation of Ireland,
Irish Olympians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be given this opportunity to address everyone gathered here.
At the outset, allow me to thank all the Irish Olympians for your participation in the Tokyo Games in spite of numerous difficulties. Let me also congratulate you on your successful participation in the Games.
All is well that starts well. On the opening day of 23 July, you, Irish Olympians amazed me and all the Japanese people watching television. When you entered the stadium, your team bowed in Japanese style. Deeply and respectfully. You are the only team who did that. It was a gesture showing profound respect to the culture and customs of the host country. As a matter of fact, this went viral in Japan’s social media. After the Games, I asked my good friend, Paul Kavanagh, Irish Ambassador to Japan. “Was it your idea?”, to which he answered, “I would very much like to say yes. But it wasn’t. Actually, the idea came from the team.” I would like to express my sincere respect for your thoughtful considerations.
All is well that ends well. After Team Ireland had already won 3 medals, on 8 August, the last day of the competition, your journey ended with the wonderful result of the gold medal of Ms Kellie Harrington. Congratulations Kellie Harrington. I know that it was clinched by your tireless hard work and the great teamwork supporting you. At the same time, I felt as though it represented a gold medal for Team Ireland as a whole. Thinking about all the tough training, difficult mental refocus after the postponement of one year and all the complicated procedures and measures against Covid, all of you deserve a gold medal. That was what I thought. I hope Kellie Harrington would not feel offended and also forgive me for saying this. Congratulations Team Ireland.
In this connection, I would also like to commend the great efforts made by the Olympic Federation of Ireland (OFI). OFI worked hard to ensure the safety and security of all the athletes and staff of Team Ireland, including those who joined from Northern Ireland. Your efforts to address the unprecedented challenges of Covid merit special applause.
I know that Covid protocols, unfortunately, prevented Irish Olympians from exploring Japan this time. However, you might have some contact through your base camp sites. I thank badminton player Nhat Nguyen for commenting on your good time in Fukuroi city which hosted the base camp for Team Ireland. I hope many of you also had the same kind experience. If you can develop further some of the bonds you forged this time, I would be grateful. This would certainly enhance the friendship between Ireland and Japan.
Tokyo was able to host the Games in spite of difficulties, thanks to your effort, support and cooperation. Congratulations again on your wonderful participation.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.