The 39th Workshop

29 November 2021
Theme: Volunteer Supporters of the Tokyo 2020 Games
Lecturer: NINOMIYA Masaya, Associate Professor of the Bunkyo University Faculty of Human Science

The Nippon Foundation Volunteer Support Center ("Volunteer Support Center"), established in 2017, provided support in the training of volunteers for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games ("Games").

Prior to recruiting volunteers, the Volunteer Support Center prepared for the Games by engaging in regular discussions about the center's mission, how many people to recruit, and how to involve volunteers in the Games. Among the various steps in the preparation, what left the strongest impression was the creation of a textbook for the use of volunteers during their training.

One of the aims of the Tokyo 2020 Games, "Diversity and Harmony," was also an important concept for volunteers who would be directly involved in the Games. Therefore, with the aim of having volunteers properly comprehend the meaning of for example "cross-cultural understanding" and "sexual diversity", and enable them to undertake specific activities and take into account the surrounding environment, we gave considerable thought to the content of the textbook. In addition, we obtained the opinions of people who themselves have disabilities on the participation of volunteers with disabilities and specific ways for supporting spectators with disabilities when they come to venues, and after identifying matters that need consideration, we incorporated them into the textbook.

The Tokyo 2020 Games were held without spectators to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and this decision also had a significant impact on the activities of volunteers for the Games. The main duties of volunteers included guiding and providing information to spectators and providing support to people who did not feel well. After the decision to hold the Games without spectators, however, the placement of volunteers at each venue had to be reviewed.

Many volunteers were unable to undertake the volunteer activities that had been planned, but even under those circumstances, the ingenuity and initiative they showed in enlivening the Games in various ways was impressive. It can be said that the emergence of volunteers with the creativity capable of designing an enjoyable space, even in such a restrictive environment, was one of the legacies of the Games.

The Volunteer Support Center conducted a questionnaire survey before and after the Games, targeting "Games Volunteers," where the Games Organizing Committee was the main managing organization, and "City Volunteers" managed by relevant local government organizations. Results of the survey indicated that the volunteers as a whole felt there was significant value in interactions with people and extraordinary experiences which would not have been possible without their participation as volunteers. Based on the results of the survey, the Volunteer Support Center made six recommendations:

1. Establish volunteer activity content that will offer a sense of satisfaction,
2. Unifying management of volunteer activities by centralizing volunteers,
3. Create a volunteer environment where anyone can participate,
4. Support young people (including students),
5. Put in place thorough preventive measures against infectious diseases, and 6. Create opportunities for volunteer activities.

At the Tokyo 2020 Games, a system was adopted to differentiate "Games Volunteers" and "City Volunteers," and the survey found disparities in the satisfaction levels of Game Volunteers and City Volunteers. To resolve issues such as this, it is perhaps necessary to manage the volunteers who support the Games in a unified form. In addition, to create an environment where the younger generation can actively participate in volunteer activities, reducing the financial burden on the younger generation such as students, is also vital. This would include conducting a review of the amount of transportation expenses paid to volunteers. Furthermore, to increase the satisfaction level of volunteers, it is also necessary to consider selecting work content that allows each volunteer to do fulfilling activities, rather than engaging in specialized work that can cause excessive mental and physical strain.

Bearing in mind the experience of the Tokyo 2020 Games, the Nippon Foundation intends to continue to promote the creation of an environment where volunteers can participate regardless of gender, age or disability