With less than three years to go before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a surge of interest has been seen in people hoping to train to become Olympic volunteers who will play a vital role in the smooth operation of the games.
Olympic volunteers will be split into two categories -- those manning the daily activities at sporting venues, such as guiding spectators to their seats and working front desk jobs, and others who will act as guides at airports, stations and tourist locations.
Over 90,000 volunteers are expected to be needed during the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will run from late July through early September. The hope is that many of them will also speak English and other foreign languages.
"Since (Olympic) volunteers usually work with people they've just met, good communication skills are essential," an instructor from the Japan Sports Volunteer Network said in a lecture to about 70 students at Tokyo Resort & Sports College in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district in mid-August.
In a communications workshop, the instructor from the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization broke the ice by getting the students to talk to as many of their classmates as possible in two minutes.
The students were also shown a video about the roles volunteers play at marathons and other sporting events. "Even though you are not an athlete, you can still share the excitement. Many people who have worked as volunteers will tell you how much they enjoyed it."
A male student who is studying to eventually coach high school judo said, "At the Tokyo Olympics I'd like to do volunteer work that directly concerns the athletes."
In July, the NGO had an instructor train some 100 employees of Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., a top sponsor for the Tokyo Olympics, in an Olympics volunteer workshop.
Waseda University, meanwhile, launched in September a volunteer training course in cooperation with the network. The network, established in 2012, has also been stepping up efforts to conduct volunteer workshops for the general public nationwide.
As a requirement to become an Olympic volunteer, applicants must be 18 or older and be able to train by April 1, 2020. The Tokyo organizing committee and metropolitan government will begin recruiting in the summer of 2018, followed by application screenings and interviews.
As a prerequisite, volunteers directly involved at the venues are asked to work at least 10 days, and those acting as guides at airports or stations outside venues at least five days. Volunteers from abroad will also be welcome to apply.
EF Education First Japan Ltd., the Japanese version of the worldwide language educational Institute founded in Sweden and an official partner of the Tokyo Olympics, has also organized workshops at public schools in Tokyo, offering children the opportunity to learn about the Olympic spirit in English.
In early July, a foreign-born language instructor from EF Education First Japan taught students of Suginami Municipal Ogikubo Junior High School the meaning of the Olympic logo in English. The students, who were divided into groups, then created their original logos and presented them to the class in English.
"I'd like to study English hard so I can speak with foreign tourists visiting Japan during the Tokyo Olympics," one student said after the workshop.
EF Education First Japan also holds seminars targeting older students and adults, selling its overseas study programs to those interested in becoming Olympic volunteers.
"We plan to further enhance the Olympic-related programs toward 2020," an EF Education official said.