A Japanese nonprofit group said Wednesday it is preparing to set up a hospitality venue welcoming LGBT athletes and fans during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in an effort to boost diversity at the events.
Similar spaces for LGBT athletes and fans called "Pride House" have been created at cities hosting international sporting events since the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games, but it would be the first such venue to be set up in Japan.
The venue, envisioned by Tokyo-based "good aging yells," is likely to come under the spotlight as one of the drivers for social change at the Tokyo Games, which aims to "raise awareness of unity in diversity among citizens of the world."
Discrimination based on sexual orientation is prohibited under the International Olympic Committee's Olympic Charter. In Japan, companies have begun actively supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, with some lawmakers trying to enact legislation banning discrimination against them.
"We want to leave a legacy by opening up the world of sports (to diversity) at the Tokyo Olympics," said Gon Matsunaka, the 41-year-old founder and head of good aging yells, which supports the LGBT community through various activities.
The group is considering organizing educational sessions and sporting events to help people deepen their understanding of LGBT issues, and may collaborate with Olympic organizers and the Tokyo metropolitan government.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, at least 41 openly LGBT athletes participated, including Rafaela Silva, Brazil's 57-kilogram gold medalist in judo. The IOC has also been promoting the rights of LGBT athletes.
About one in every 13 people is believed to be LGBT in Japan, according to a 2015 nationwide survey conducted by advertisement agency Dentsu Inc. that covered 70,000 people. But openly LGBT athletes remain rare in the country.
Matsunaka said politicians and athletes in Japan are worried about "losing something by coming out," alluding to a lack of understanding among the public about the LGBT community and a deep-rooted sense of discrimination against its members.
Fumino Sugiyama, a 36-year-old transgender man who once represented Japan in women's fencing, said, "It will be very effective if we can set up, even if for a short time, a place to communicate relevant information to the wider society at a sporting event that attracts attention from the world.