The holding of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games is sure to invigorate the sporting world in Japan in the future. Not only do sports make people healthier and allow them to experience emotion, they also benefit the nation directly through job creation in related industries and in foreign diplomacy and international exchange. The issue is how to ensure that the Games do not end with the closing ceremonies, but ensure that even after they are over and sports in Japan continue to be rejuvenated.
1. It is not enough to Depend Solely on PE Curricula and Sports Clubs at Schools. Sports Clubs Outside School also Need to be Expanded. Athletes also Require Assistance to Pursue Second Careers.
The fundamental problem with sports in Japan is that almost all the sport that children do happens at school, as part of PE lessons or club activities. It will therefore also be important to strengthen and invigorate outside-school sports clubs. If local sports clubs, which can provide expert coaching in various sports, are expanded, collaboration between schools and the outside world, such as bringing in external coaches, will also become possible.
The expansion of local sports clubs will also help athletes pursue second careers. Athletes tend to retire at a young age, but finding a second career is apparently not much of a problem in Western countries. It seems that this is because in the West it is normal for even Olympic athletes to acquire MBAs, medical licenses, and other skills that do not relate to sport. In Japan, on the other hand, athletes devote themselves to their sports. The prevailing attitude is that “if you’re good at sports, that’s enough.” But to expand the base of people going into sports, society as a whole should tackle the problem of second careers. The issue should not be dismissed as “a problem for the athletes themselves.” Local sports clubs should also get involved, dispatching outsiders to provide coaching in schools, for example.
2. Establish a Sports Agency to Implement Sport Policy Independently of School Education, which is Handled by MEXT
Although “teaching sports in schools” is an important government policy, goals such as “making Japanese sport stronger” and “rejuvenating regions and enabling people to live long and healthy lives” differ from such policy objectives. The launch of the Sports Agency in 2015 is to be highly commended. We hope that it acts independently of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to implement policies that are dedicated to sports, such as discovering junior athletes and stepping up assistance for top athletes.
3. Reform the Governance of Sports Associations
The presidents of sports associations in the U.S. are apparently scouted from companies such as Disney in the entertainment industry. This is testament to sports being seen as part of the entertainment business.
On the other hand, as scandals at Japan’s judo and sumo associations have shown, governance at many of the country’s sports-related associations is incredibly poor. It is therefore necessary to actively promote the appointment of outsiders to head these associations, implement reforms such as the sharing of best practices among organizations, and so on.
4. Establish Sport as a Business. Rid Sports of Dependence on Subsidies and Get Them to Survive on Their Own Revenues and Private Donations
The U.S. is a sporting superpower, and the sporting world there operates on its own revenues and donations from the private sector. As can be seen from the four major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, and NHL), it is significant that sports can succeed as a business.
In Japan, too, there have been some success stories recently of corporations entering the field of professional baseball, but it is essential to establish sport as a business and create a business model that can generate profit from sport. Sports have a great deal of potential, even minor sports with few competitors, city marathons in which local people participate, and so on. We therefore want a structure for ridding sports of dependence on subsidies and enabling them to get by on their own revenues and private donations to be swiftly established.