It is no exaggeration to suggest that 2019 and 2020 will offer Japan a chance to assume the title of “world sport capital”—at least for a time. Here at The British School in Tokyo (BST), we are taking advantage of that window of opportunity to build something lasting and truly meaningful for young people who are lucky enough to find themselves here in Tokyo at this very special time. To do so, we devised our 19:20 Project.
Launched as part of our 25th Anniversary celebrations during the 2014–15 academic year, the project is unashamedly ambitious. Our aim is to take advantage of three major global sporting events—the Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games—to strengthen links with the local community, create additional learning opportunities for all students, and establish an enduring educational legacy.
“The support from BST and their 19:20 Project has been instrumental in helping us to establish the Shibuya International Rugby Club in order to foster cross-cultural friendship in a safe and enjoyable sporting environment”, said Koji Tokumasu, the club’s president and director of the RWC 2019 Organising Committee.
We began with a hearts-and-minds approach, building interest across our own school community and beyond by inviting guest speakers, setting up workshops and launching our Twitter account. Visitors included Bill Sweeney, CEO of the British Olympic Association, and Koji Tokumasu.
We began to build on these foundations with a series of workshops for students. In 2015–16, Andy Barrow, former captain of the British Wheelchair Rugby team and three-time Paralympian, was invited to Japan and spent a week in the school working with primary and secondary students. That visit was repeated in 2016–17.
Meanwhile, a team of student journalists began producing a series of articles based on interviews with athletes—both able-bodied and physically challenged. We also arranged school visits to a range of events—including the Blind Football World Grand Prix, held by the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA), and an international wheelchair basketball tournament—at which students met British teams.
“The England Blind Football squad was warmly welcomed by BST students and staff while competing at the IBSA Football World Grand Prix 2018. The young journalists interviewed a number of players, and it was clear they had done their research thoroughly.
“The final article captured the culture and work ethic we share as a team to compete on the international stage. The visit certainly enhanced our experience during our time in Tokyo and I know it will have a lasting impact”, said Ayser Hussain, national physical performance manager for the England Blind Football Team.
The next phase focused on leadership, community relations and infrastructure. In 2017, we appointed Roisin Campbell, the current double European Karate champion, to a part-time role directing the project. Now that we are in a crucial phase of the initiative, she is working full time.
Then, with the help of the mayor of Kawasaki City and the British Embassy Tokyo, we identified a site on which to develop a new sports facility within a 30-minute drive of our main school campus. Construction is now underway, and the new ground will open in January 2019.
One year ago, we became the first international school ever to gain affiliation to the Japan Schools Rugby Football Union before going on to commit to formal partnerships with Kawasaki City, the University of Tsukuba and the newly formed Shibuya International Rugby Club.
“From the outset, the school had a clear vision: to create practical learning tasks for students to understand both the physical and mental barriers that exist for those with disabilities and to show them that sport can be inclusive for all. This special project will offer a meaningful legacy for BST students, helping them to develop an active voice on the many issues surrounding disability in society,” said Professor Yukinori Sawae of the University of Tsukuba.