～The Tokyo Olympics decision sparks excitement～
The performances of young athletes leading the Japanese sports scene have had a great influence on children and their parents alike, inspiring them to become future Olympians and world-class players. With the approaching Tokyo Olympics, various sports associations have begun to strengthen the development of athletes/players. We are likely to see a huge boom/upward trend in sports activities among young, aspiring Olympians as well as adults who are in turn inspired by them. Here are some sports facilities and classes that are rising in popularity.
The rise in popularity: Ward-run skating rink
The Sochi Winter Olympics concluded on February 23. Japanese athletes acquired a total of eight medals, second to the achievements at the Nagano Olympics. Among them, the figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu stole the spotlight. He is the first male figure skater to achieve an Olympic gold medal in a field that has been rising in popularity, following the accomplishments of competitors such as Mao Asada and Daisuke Takahashi.
Perhaps due to the effect of the Olympics, Edogawa Sports Land–a facility run by Edogawa Ward–has drawn a great deal of attention. In addition to being the only such facility among all the 23 wards of Tokyo to offer a ward-run ice skating rink (open in October through May), it also accommodates games such as tennis and futsal. Many skaters, ranging from beginners to Japan’s top athletes, visit the rink from all around the nation, “seeking its ice.” The rink has a long history, having been opened by Edogawa Ward in 1982 in response to the voices of elementary school children who wanted a skating rink. The rink accommodates a broad spectrum of ice sports, including figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey and curling, and provides classes for beginner and intermediate students.
The rink recorded 25,865 visitors–a record high in recent years–from the general public this January. Even in March, in which an average of 10,000 visitors is expected, it welcomed 21,985 visitors this year. With the popularity generated by the Olympics, the annual number of visitors has exceeded 110,000 people.
The volleyball school with a great reputation
Six more years remain until the Tokyo Olympics. During the previous Tokyo Olympics held in 1964, a Japanese women’s volleyball team known as the “Witches of the Orient” obtained the gold medal and received much recognition. Subsequently, however, the men’s and women’s Japanese volleyball teams went through a period of defeat against foreign teams. Recently, the popularity and skill/performance in volleyball, particularly in women’s volleyball, has been on the rise.
Ohca Sports Management, a nonprofit organization (NPO) that runs the “Ohca Volleyball Club & School,” has extended its reach beyond Tokyo to other regions across the nation, such as Shizuoka and Hiroshima. Thus the membership has seen an increase, thanks to its reputation as a “sport class that’s fun for adults too.”
The cost for a single 50-minute class is 2,990 yen (the lowest general public fare). Their biggest appeal lies in their one-on-one lessons that include the “serve-lesson course,” “spike-lesson course” and “receive-lesson course,” but team lessons are held by spontaneously grouping the day’s attendees. In our interviews of the participants, it was clear that they represented a variety of goals: There was an office worker who was always interested but never had a place to practice; a teacher who had no volleyball experience but was appointed as the volleyball club advisor and wanted better coaching and playing skills; and a girl who wanted to make the team at school.
The challenge that class businesses have faced
Given an age in which the need for places of lifelong learning and communication becomes a common topic of discussion, the sports classes and facilities within the region and society play an increasingly important role. However, with demand decreasing due to declining birthrates, aging and a shrinking population, the balance between supply-and-demand and operation costs has become a significant issue. Methods of operation will vary greatly, depending on whether an organization owns a sports facility, and the reality for small to medium-sized private businesses is that it will be costly to enter the field of sports education.
The pure heart and sparkle in a person’s eyes when he or she engages in a sports activity is the same regardless of one’s age. In order to create more places for them to thrive, private businesses might consider collaborating closely with public organizations such as local governments that own such facilities, and provide appealing sports content through a synergistic effect.