TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan bade farewell to their delegation of athletes heading to Jakarta for the Asian Games during a ceremony on Monday that illustrated the pressure Japanese athletes will be under when Tokyo hosts the 2020 Olympics.
Japan have set a goal of 30 gold medals from the Olympics in two years time, which would be almost double the record of 16 set when they last hosted the Games in 1964 and in Athens in 2004.
The Japanese team go to Jakarta expecting to show progress from their previous two Asian Games in which they secured 48 and 47 gold medals.
Although that was good enough for third in the medal table, Japan was some distance off second-placed South Korea and they will want to close that gap with their home Olympics just around the corner.
Athletes at Monday’s event were treated to a visit by Prince Akishino, who said he hoped the Asian Games would be a chance for Japan’s athletes to engage with those from other nations in a bid for international harmony.
Former Olympic judo gold medallist Yashuhiro Yamashita was more demanding.
“Our goal is to win 30 gold medals at Tokyo 2020,” said Yamashita, who is head of Japan’s delegation going to Jakarta.
“To make this come true, we are working on several things, including the new sports that will debut at the Asian Games and that will also be at Tokyo 2020.”
Daiya Seto, who won a gold and silver at the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Tokyo over the weekend, is one of Japan’s main medal hopes in Jakarta.
“I have got gold medals at the last Asian Games so I want to do it again this time around,” said Seto, who won two golds in 2014.
Team captain and Olympic silver medallist sprinter Ryota Yamagata spoke of the need to bring joy to the people of Japan, especially those affected by last month’s flooding.
“I am from Hiroshima, which was hit by the heavy rain and there are people who are now suffering and struggling to live normally,” Yamagata said.
“If we achieve all these goals and we do our best at the Games, then we can show again how amazing sport is.”
Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori said he met with Prime Minister Abe to call on him to implement daylight savings time amid for athlete safety during the Games.