The Yomiuri ShimbunWith applications for volunteers at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to be accepted starting in September, a requirement to work for at least 10 days in total will likely become a hurdle to securing a sufficient number of participants, even though a survey has indicated that many people are interested in working as volunteers.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has launched a drive to encourage university students and others who can be flexible in terms of time to work as volunteers. They are regarded as a key element for the success of the Games.
Some universities, meanwhile, have already decided on such measures as changing their schedules for classes or regular exams so that they will not overlap with the sports extravaganzas.
In July, Meiji University issued a notice to its students, saying: “This will be a golden opportunity [for the Olympics and the Paralympics] to be held in Japan. We will move the class schedule ahead so that students can participate in the Games.”
For the private university in Tokyo, July 24, 2020 — the opening day of the Tokyo Olympics — would ordinarily fall on the first day of its regular first-semester exams. However, it has decided to move the entire class schedule ahead so that the regular exams finish by the time the Olympics kick off.
Meiji University also intends to offer alternative measures for students who will miss their classes or exams to volunteer at the Games.
“[The Tokyo Games will be] a good opportunity for students to broaden their perspective,” a university official said. “We also took into consideration possible traffic congestion during the periods.”
For the Olympics and Paralympics, the organizing committee will seek about 80,000 volunteers, who will work at venues and the Athletes Village to help manage competitions, among other tasks.
According to a survey conducted in April by the Nippon Foundation Volunteer Support Center on 3,800 people living in Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures, 57 percent of respondents said they are interested in participating in the 2020 Olympics as volunteers.
Interest in volunteer activities is growing in Japan, as shown by the fact that the 2019 rugby World Cup in Japan received applications from more than 38,000 people for about 10,000 volunteer positions.
However, while the rugby World Cup requires volunteers to work for at least two to five days, the Tokyo Games urge them to take part for at least 10 days in total — almost the same period as the past Olympics and Paralympics — in a bid to enable them to take best advantage of the skills they will acquire during training sessions prior to the Games and to maintain these skills by getting involved for a certain period.
In a bid to ensure a necessary number of volunteers, the organizing committee has engaged in a campaign since late July at universities nationwide, discussing with the faculty and students the meaning and fascinating aspects of volunteer activities.
If it is difficult for university students, the 10-day commitment is an even higher hurdle for those in employment to participate in the Tokyo Games as volunteers.
A 23-year-old man who worked as a volunteer interpreter at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 when he was a university student said it was “a valuable experience that cannot be replaced by money.” Now a company employee since this spring, he added: “I hope to get involved in the Tokyo Games as well as a volunteer, but it’d be difficult for me to take as many as 10 days off.”
According to a questionnaire survey conducted last year by the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry, only 6 percent of companies in the capital have a volunteer leave system.
“There must be many potential people who hope to work as volunteers,” said a senior official at the organizing committee. “We will call on schools and companies for cooperation in creating an environment in which those who are motivated can step forward [to take part as volunteers].”Speech