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[Columns]“Kansai World Masters Games 2021,” the world’s largest-class sports event, to be held

   The World Masters Games (WMG), a sports event expected to be attended by about 50,000 athletes from both Japan and overseas, will be held in the Kansai region in 2021, the year after the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. With more than 20,000 athletes from overseas countries, a ripple effect from the WMG for the regional economy is also expected.
   The WMG is a sports event organized by the International Masters Games Association (IMGA headquarters: Lausanne, Switzerland). Its first games were held in 1985 in Toronto, Canada. After that, the WMG has been held in various places around the world such as Sydney in Australia.
   The entry requirement is to “be an athlete aged 30 or older, with no upper age limit.” The games can be basically joined by anyone who loves sports and registers for entry regardless of their ability or age, with no elimination according to country or region. The period is about 10 days. Participants will compete in about 30 events, such as track and field, soccer, and basketball. The WMG in 2021 will mark its 10th anniversary, and will be the first WMG to be held in Asia.
   In September 2013, a Preparatory Committee was established mainly by the Union of Kansai Governments and the economic world in the Kansai region through their activities to attract the WMG to be held in Kansai. In November 2013, a basic agreement was concluded with the IMGA. On October 7, 2014, a rally was held with the participation of approximately 500 people related to the economic world, administrative bodies, and the Japan Amateur Sports Association (photo left).
   Hyogo Governor Toshizo Ido, who serves as the head of the Union of Kansai Governments as well as Chair of the Preparatory Committee gave a speech where he said, “We expect that several tens of thousands of people will visit the Kansai region, including not only athletes but also their families accompanying them. Since the WMG is not well known, I hope that this event will be broadly advertised” (photo center). Chairman Shosuke Mori of the Kansai Economic Federation also said, “We would like to hold the WMG on a grand scale by transmitting related information from Kansai to other Asian countries and to the world” (photo right).
   With regard to people related to sports, when Chair Shoichi Yanagimoto of the Athlete Network (former head coach of the Japanese women's national volleyball team), Vice Chair Nobuharu Asahara (Beijing Olympic bronze medalist) as well as Michiko Hamuro and Kayako Hirose, mother-daughter gold medalists in swimming from WMG Torino 2013 appeared on the platform, the venue was enlivened with an air of success for the coming WMG.
   The WMG is unique in that many athletes participate in the event with the additional purpose of sightseeing in the host country/region. According to the Sports Commission Kansai, which comprises people from the economic world and academicians, in WMG Sydney 2009, 52% of athletes from overseas came to the country with their families or friends, with an average stay of 15.8 days. The previous WMG in Torino was joined by 19,000 athletes from 107 countries, and visited by about 5,000 of their family members and friends.
   Based on forecasts from these data, in the case of the WMG in 2021, the number of people visiting the Kansai region for the event is expected to be a record high of 50,000, including approximately 20,000 people from overseas, and its economic effect is calculated to be at least 14 billion yen.
   In Japan, a country with a super aging society, with new citizens' marathon races being held one after another throughout the country, people’s consciousness of health and athleticism continues to expand. Since the WMG provides a perfect opportunity to show the results of their regular training, the participants from Japan are expected to be in the several tens of thousands, with a total of more than 50,000 people expected to come to the venue.
   But problems still could arise that need attention. Some things still left to be done include arranging volunteer interpreters and securing means of transportation and housing for non-Japanese participants. An official from the Australian Consulate-General in Osaka, as a country that has experienced hosting the WMG three times, said, “We would like to cooperate with Kansai's hosting of the WMG by sharing our know-how in a positive manner on holding the event.”
   Although preparations to be done by the host region vary, the WMG is scheduled to be held around May in 2021, six and a half years from now. You have enough time to train and challenge yourself for a sports event that is open to anyone. How about taking a look at the Preparatory Committee and IMGA websites to find out more? (Moritatsu Tawara)
Contact : Kansai World Masters Games 2021 (in Japanese)
Website http://www.WMG2021.jp/
Related Website(s) IMGA