Photo/IllutrationFormer Japanese national representative swimmer Hanae Ito hands out flyers calling for Tokyo Games volunteers at the capital's JR Shinjuku Station on Sept. 26. (Reina Kitamura)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A campaign to recruit 110,000 volunteers for the 2020 Tokyo Games kicked off on Sept. 26, with participants offered the chance to play roles from medal carriers to guides for overseas visitors at airports.

The Tokyo metropolitan government and Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games are hoping to receive a sufficient number of applications by December.

At the west exit of JR Shinjuku Station in the capital, staff members for the organizing committee and other parties handed out flyers and application forms to become volunteers.

While some have expressed excitement at taking part in the world’s premier sporting extravaganza, others have criticized the demanding requirements for becoming a volunteer, including a minimum commitment of days during the event, and said the system is “exploiting the goodwill” of people despite the Games being a substantial commercial event.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is calling for 80,000 people to become Games Volunteers to carry out varied tasks, including supporting operations at event venues or the Olympic Village, as well as assisting athletes. Roles may also involve ensuring that sports events go off smoothly and helping out at news conference venues.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is hoping to secure 30,000 City Volunteers, whose responsibilities will involve helping visitors from both inside and outside Japan find their way on the public transport network to event venues or tourist destinations.

Games Volunteers need either Japanese citizenship or a permit to stay in Japan during the volunteer period, and must apply through the website of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The minimum commitment is 10 days of about eight hours each.

City Volunteers must be either Japanese citizens or people who have permits to reside in Japan. They can apply through the Tokyo metropolitan government’s special website, or by sending an application form via post or fax. The minimum commitment is five days of about five hours each. Basic Japanese communication skills are required.

For both categories, applicants’ dates of birth must be on or before April 1, 2002. Applications can be submitted until the beginning of December.

After the application period ends, applicants must go through interviews, orientation sessions, and training before their selection. Roles will be finalized around March 2020.

After April 2020, volunteers are expected to attend a few training sessions before practical voluntary work begins from July.

Uniforms and meals will be provided, and after a public backlash, the organizing committee decided to provide a prepaid card loaded with 1,000 yen ($8.90) per Games Volunteer per day as a supplement to travel costs.

The Tokyo metropolitan government is currently looking into providing similar compensation to City Volunteers.

(This article was written by Hiroko Saito and Ryusuke Hirai.)