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Ready for Tokyo 2020

Environmentally friendly and sustainable Olympics awaits Hungarians in Japan

Sándor Laczkó
February 25, 2020

It is less than half a year to the Tokyo Olympics. The Japanese are preparing innovative, environmentally friendly solutions for the Games that focus on sustainability. The President of the Hungarian Olympic Committee (HOC), Krisztián Kulcsár, has had reassuring, positive impressions in the island country and is confident regarding the chances of the Hungarian Team.

Japan has long-standing Olympic traditions. The country has hosted one summer and two winter Games. This year, the Olympic Flame returns to Tokyo after 56 years. Back in 1964, the Olympics hosted by Japan featured several innovations – Olympic events were broadcast by satellite for the first time and touch panel timing was introduced in swimming pools. The Japanese have been preparing for 2020 for about a decade; they are precise, innovative, creative, and everything is well-thought-out. HOC leaders have visited Tokyo on several occasions to review preparations, visit sites and facilities under construction, and are in constant discussions concerning the conditions awaiting the Hungarian Team. As Krisztián Kulcsár summarizes for Diplomacy&Trade, “we’ve had good impressions, we saw a high level of preparedness and readiness. As you arrive, you can immediately see at the airport, on the streets and even on taxis: the Olympic Games will be held here. Members of the organizing committee are very kind and helpful, and we are also grateful to Dr. Norbert Palanovics, Hungary’s Ambassador to Japan, for his help. I am sure that athletes and fans alike will be received by impeccable conditions. However, they should also be aware of the hot and humid weather as well as the seven-hour time lag; right-hand drive cars and special power connectors could be a novelty for them. The somewhat reserved and distant culture and traditions of the Japanese must be respected.”

Sustainable Olympics
The Japanese organizers are planning an environmentally friendly, sustainable Olympics. The HOC President points out that preparationsin this spirit are in line with the provisions of the International Olympic Committee's Agenda 2020. Last year, the British Standards Institution evaluated all activities related to the Games, and the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games was awarded the ISO 20121 International Standard and Certification for Sustainable Events. “Most of the sites will include temporary or pre-existing facilities, with large amounts of wood used in construction. The wheelchair accessible Olympic Stadium – built with sustainability in mind, inaugurated at the end of 2019 – greatly matches the green environment: thousands of trees and bushes were planted in the surrounding park. Medal podiums are being produced by using tons of recycled plastic. In order to produce the thousands of medals, a nationwide participation program was launched to recycle and recover precious metals from used cell phones. Energy for the sites and the Olympic Village is provided by renewable sources: wind and solar power, transport will be made greener by zero emission cars, and much of the material used in the Games will be recycled. The beds in the Olympic Village are made of heavy-duty cardboard. Even when purchasing paper, sustainability is a primary consideration. The implementation of the Games will be assisted by robots.”

Training in Japan
At the end of 2017, the Governor of the Tochigi Prefecture, Tomikazu Fukuda visited Budapest and briefed the sports federations on the training camp options for Hungarian athletes. In line with an agreement the HOC signed with the Japanese Olympic Committee and Tochigi Prefecture, Hungarian athletes will use the sports facilities as support offered by the Japanese, train with local partners and get acquainted with the sports technology, the competition venues and the Japanese environment. Professional supervision at such trips is the HOC’s responsibility. Track and field athletes were among the first to sign up for this opportunity, followed by those in modern pentathlon, cycling, triathlon and rhythmic gymnastics. Some sports have partnered with other prefectures and cities, such as wrestlers with Maebasi city, Gunma Prefecture, and swimmers with Koriyama. For a long time, members of the Hungarian judo team have been working with a Japanese master and training partners. Japan organized a number of test competitions before the Olympics. Krisztián Kulcsár says these test tournaments have a dual purpose. “From the organizers' point of view, they are the main test events, there is still time to remedy any shortcomings; on the competitors’ side, the goal is to gain experience and become familiar with the circumstances – it is not necessarily the result that counts. These are good for acclimatization, experiencing competition conditions as well as climatic and natural conditions such as humidity, water quality, wind, waves, which are significant for canoeing or sailing athletes. Triathletes, for example, will need to prepare for an early start due to hot weather; organizers adjust the program to the heat in several sports. Cooling mist sprays, tents, wet wipes will also be used. Due to the expected heat in Tokyo, the marathon run will take place in Sapporo,” Krisztián Kulcsár highlights.

Tickets and hopes
Ticket sales for events of Hungarian interest for the Tokyo Summer Games were launched at the HOC website olimpia.hu at the end of July last year. The HOC President says they are receiving more and more requests. “However, it should be noted that tickets are not cheap and we cannot meet all needs.” He recently stated that Hungarian sport had a good year before the Olympics. As for his expectations, he is optimistic, yet realistic. “Medals won in recent years in sports included in the Olympic program are encouraging; every year, the trend improves. I am satisfied with last year's eight golds but it should also be noted that many of our traditionally successful sports have not yet produced good results. I still consider the HOC Sports Directorate's forecast released one year before the Games as valid. According to the document, we expect a team of the same size as in Rio four years ago: 144-179 athletes. As of the end of January, we have 72 athletes who either acquired a quota or reached qualification level. The list of qualified athletes may change from week to week, the latest additions are the men’s water polo team who just won the European Championships; the men's epée fencing team also achieved great results at the beginning of the year. The number of Olympic participants from Hungary greatly depends on team sports: we have a lot of confidence in our water polo, handball and 3x3 basketball players. In the prognosis, we calculate with 13 medals and 24 Top6 rankings. Besides the traditional success sports for Hungarians, we may be pleasantly surprised in sailing, shooting or even wrestling,” the HOC President concludes.

Sándor Laczkó

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