Japanese Olympic Committee Secretary General Tsuyoshi Fukui was appointed Chef de Mission of the host country of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday.
Fukui, 62, is Senior Executive Director of the Japan Tennis Association and was an official of the Japanese delegation at the last two Summer Olympic Games in London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The JOC also named Mitsugi Ogata, Senior Managing Director of the Japan Association of Athletics Federations, as Deputy Chef de Mission.
A former tennis player himself with a record seven national singles titles to his credit, Fukui was self-effacing as he stepped into the high-profile role.
“It is an absolute honour to be appointed to this huge role,” Fukui said during a press conference at JOC headquarters. “The weight of the responsibility is nothing short of overwhelming.
“An Olympics in your home country maybe happens once every 50 years, a century. I will give this everything I have and in doing so, I want to emphasise the spirit of harmony." - Japan Chef de Mission Tsuyoshi Fukui.
"We must go into the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with our spirit unified. It’s my chief responsibility to create an environment where everyone in the delegation can chase their dreams to his or her fullest and if I can do that, I am confident we will hit our target.”
30 golds the goal
That target will be 30 gold medals at the 24 July-9 August event – nearly double the most Japan have ever won at a single Olympic Games in Tokyo 1964 and Athens 2004.
Although the bar has been set high, Ogata said the goal is a realistic one that Japan can reach.
“Our goal is to still win 30 medals and we are fully aware it will not be easy to attain,” Ogata said. “But if we can capitalise on the advantages of being hosts and neutralise any disadvantages, we can achieve it.
“At the various world championships over the last two years, we have won a combined 17 gold medals and 27 silvers but some of those silvers were very close to being a gold.
“Our mission for the Games will be turning those silvers into golds and if we can manage that, 30 gold medals is well within our reach.” - Deputy Chef de Mission Mitsugi Ogata.
Yamashita to focus on presidency
There were calls to appoint JOC President Yasuhiro Yamashita as Chef de Mission but Fukui said assuming the two titles would have been a near impossible juggling act even for the former Olympic judo champion.
“Indeed, some pushed for President Yamashita to lead the delegation,” said Fukui, who was Japan’s Deputy Chef de Mission at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia.
“But as JOC President, he has the task of welcoming all the NOCs next summer and that is an enormous job on its own.
“I think if he was named Chef de Mission, he would have given it his all in the position which would have made taking on both roles extremely difficult.”
Fukui himself never competed at the Olympic Games but was head coach of Japan’s tennis team at Barcelona 1992 and Sydney 2000. He climbed as high as 177th in the men’s singles ranking during his career.