Leaders August 2013

The Importance of Sport

Athletic energy in business can promote unity and boost morale

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid now entering its final stretch, not to mention the tremendous excitement surrounding Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win, the British Lions’ victory in Australia, a great start to the Ashes, and Chris Froome lifting the Tour de France trophy, sport has not been far from my mind this month.

On 16 July I attended my first Japan British Society board meeting, after being voted in at the club’s annual general meeting in May.

Before the formal proceedings I spoke to Yoshiji Nogami, the society’s chairman and former Japanese ambassador to the UK, about Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic bid. As an executive board member of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Nogami will soon be travelling to Buenos Aires for the 125th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session that will decide the 2020 host city.

He is confident that a strong campaign was showcased to the IOC during its visit to Tokyo in March, and the world must now await the final decision, to be announced on 7 September.

On 24 July the BCCJ and the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan were pleased to support an event organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Tokyo 2020 taskforce led by Fujio Cho, Toyota’s honorary chairman and chairman of the Japan Sports Association.

The lunchtime session focused on what hosting the Games could mean for Japan’s economy and the mood of the entire nation. Cho stressed that Japanese firms need to “understand the importance of sport” and shouldn’t “think about cost when it comes to the Olympics”.

In the subsequent panel discussion, head of BCCJ events Graham Davis pointed to the legacy of the London Games and, in particular, what hosting the sporting spectacle taught the UK about itself.

Davis reminded the audience that the Games should never be about corporations but, rather, about people and the celebration of human spirit.

A number of BCCJ member firms played a major role in the London Games, including GlaxoSmithKline K.K. who provided anti-doping facilities and equipment to ensure competition fairness.

On 16 June I travelled to Tochigi Prefecture for the 40th anniversary of GSK Japan’s Imaichi plant and had the pleasure of meeting some of GSK’s female Olympian hockey players, as well as Paralympian gold medallist Rina Akiyama.

Around 600 guests—mainly GSK Japan employees and their families—gathered to enjoy a traditional matsuri (festival) in the grounds of the plant. On witnessing first hand the popularity and energy of the Olympians, it struck me that having successful athletes in the workplace can really help promote unity and boost morale.

On the last weekend of July, I completed the Warrior Dash, a 5-km obstacle course held at Doitsu Mura. My team ran to support O.G.A. for Aid, an NPO based in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture.

In January 2012, the BCCJ’s Back to Business initiative supplied O.G.A.’s Green Farmers Association project with greenhouses and a multi-cultivator.

This economic revitalisation project continues to provide a group of locals with a real sense of purpose and a modest income.

Finally, Manchester United and Arsenal football teams visited Japan in July. Please stay tuned over the coming months for a related BCCJ event with Manchester United.