Table Speech

To Enhance the Value of Sports

June 7, 2017

Ph.D. Daichi Suzuki
Commissioner, Japan Sports Agency

 The Japan Sports Agency was established in October 2015 as an external bureau of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Currently, there are about 130 staff members, including those seconded from other ministries and private companies, assigned to one of the seven divisions (Policy, Sports for Health, Competitive Sports, International Affairs, Olympic and Paralympic Games, Community Development, Sport Organizations Support and Private-Sector Cooperation). The Agency launched the second Basic Act on Sport this April, which presents a roadmap to realize a “sports-oriented nation” over the coming five years that goes beyond the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. We work to increase the number of people who “play” “watch” and “support” different kinds of sports, including walking and dancing. The four guiding principles of the Basic Act aim for the people to “change their LIFE,” “change the SOCIETY,” “get connected to the WORLD” and “create the FUTURE” through sports.

 Firstly, we aim to make people change their LIFE through sports so that they can develop basic physical fitness and lead a healthy life, both physically and mentally. By extending healthy life expectancy, we can eventually curb the national healthcare expenditure. Currently, only 42.5% of the adult population plays sport or exercise at least once a week, thus our target is to raise it to 65%. To make sports more attractive to people of all ages, especially busy working people in their 20s, 30s and 40s, a multi-sectoral approach that encompasses national and municipal governments, the insurance sector as well as different industries like fashion, entertainment, IT, tourism, culture and arts will be more effective to motive people take part in sports. We often talk about “health and productivity management” lately, based on the understanding that the health and wellbeing of employees will impact labor productivity. For example, the JAL Group has incorporated the wellness activities that promote health in the workplace into its Medium Term Management Plan, through active collaboration among the employees, offices, and the health insurance association. The Sports Agency will assist such initiatives.

 We also encourage children and young people to participate in sports. Currently, 60% of middle school students are willing to play sports so we hope to raise it to 80%, by making P.E. classes more enjoyable through better instruction methods. Medical-scientific research results prove that motor skills develop rapidly during infancy and childhood, so we target preschoolers to make them enjoy sports.

 We also promote female participation and engagement in sport at all levels. One is to have more female sports instructors, currently accounting for less than 30%. Female directors at sports associations and organizations are as low as 10% and we plan to raise it to at least 30%.

 Let me now talk about changing the SOCIETY through sports. We try to achieve an inclusive society where everyone can enjoy sports. Currently, less than 20% of disabled people play sport at least once a week. We promote active participation of people with disabilities in sports by making use of special school facilities as local sports bases for disabled people of all ages. Another important aspect is to develop sport into a growth industry that will revitalize local communities and economies, as outlined in the Japan Revitalization Strategy 2016. Today, the sports market size totals 5.5 trillion yen and we work to expand it to 10 trillion yen by 2020 and further to 15 trillion yen by 2025. We implement various measures such as enhancing the attractiveness and profitability of sports facilities; developing and utilizing sports management human resources to promote creation of new sport businesses; expanding sports tourism to a 380-billion-yen market and attracting 2.5 million inbound visitors; and utilizing college sports facilities to promote active participation of local communities in sports, by introducing the Japanese-version of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

 We are also trying to get connected to the WORLD through sports. The Agency announced the Suzuki Plan last October targeted to develop globally competitive athletes for the 2020 Olympics and beyond. We will attempt to dig up hidden talent, such as high school baseball players. “Sport for Tomorrow” is a program announced at the 2013 IOC Session by Prime Minister Abe and aims to promote multi-cultural exchanges with more than 10 million people in over 100 countries through sports. We also strive to wipe out doping, match-fixing, illegal gambling and other threats to sport integrity and champion good sportsmanship so that we will live up to the expectations as a good host country for the 2020 Olympics.

 As we look towards the FUTURE, we will work to “promote participation of all citizens in sports” and revitalize our society and reinforce ties among different countries through sports. Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics as well as the 2021 World Masters Game. We hope to make sport exert a stronger presence and enhance its value over the coming five years and to leave positive legacies for many more years to come.