Reception at the Japanese Embassy for JOC officials and Japanese residents in the UK. Senior Executive Board Member of the JOC and judo fold medalist (1976) Haruki Uemura, Ambassador of Japan Keiichi Hayashi, Executive Board Member of the JOC and gymnastics gold medalist (1968, 1972 and 1976) Mitsuo Tsukahara, judo gold medalist (2004) Maki Tsukada, and Minister Hitoshi Noda from the Embassy.
This year London is the venue for some truly huge, festive events. We have recently enjoyed the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and are now preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am delighted to be able to witness the first London Olympics involving Japan. Of course, London has hosted two summer Olympics before – those in 1908 and 1948. However, this is the first time for Japan to participate in the games here. In 1908, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) had not yet been founded (the equivalent organisation, the Japan Amateur Sports Association, was set up in 1911), while Japan was not invited to the 1948 Olympics since they took place so soon after World War II.
As Ambassador of Japan to the UK, I trust that the Olympics and Paralympics will deepen the ties of friendship between our countries. Also, just like my fellow Japanese citizens, I hope the Japanese athletes will win as many medals as possible. Japan usually performs well in such fields as wrestling, judo and swimming. This time, however, I have great expectations regarding my favourite sport, football. We remember how Nadeshiko Japan (the Japanese women’s football team) brought hope to our nation when they won the World Cup last year. Just a little over a year after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, the Japanese people can take great heart from their compatriots’ successes in major sporting events.
London will be the first city in the world to host its third summer Olympic Games, and Tokyo has applied to host its second: those in 2020. On 23 May the first round of voting took place and our capital was short-listed as a candidate city, along with Madrid and Istanbul, with the eventual winner to be chosen from these three in September 2013.
In 2020, 10 years will have passed since the disaster, and we expect the reconstruction and regeneration of Japan to have been completed by that time. If the summer Olympic Games can be held in Tokyo then, it will be an excellent chance for us to demonstrate to the world that Japan has recovered. It will also serve as a great opportunity for us to express our appreciation once again to the countries and individuals throughout the world that provided Japan with such generous support and assistance in the aftermath of the disaster.
It is perhaps fitting to remind ourselves that the Tokyo Olympics back in 1964 worked as a symbol of the recovery of Japan after World War II. In fact, my staff will mount an exhibition at the Embassy from the middle of July to commemorate the Tokyo Olympics, while providing background information on major landmarks of that time, such as the completion of the first Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) line. The event will last throughout the Olympics and the Paralympics, and will feature memorabilia from both Japan and the UK.
Thus London is set to enjoy a series of fascinating and colourful spectacles which are sure to remain long in our memories. I, for one, am looking forward to what lies ahead with relish.