Team-forming ceremony held for Japan athletes in Beijing Games

Pool photo / The Yomiuri Shimbun
Miho Takagi, center, a speed skater who serves as captain for Japanese athletes, makes a speech at a ceremony to mark the formation of a Japanese delegation for the Beijing Winter Olympics on Saturday.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — A ceremony was held on Saturday to mark the formation of a Japanese delegation for the Beijing Winter Olympics.

“We will do our best so that the performances of athletes in the Winter Games can deliver courage and brightness throughout Japan and help create hopes for the future in society,” female speed skater Miho Takagi, 27, who serves as captain for Japanese athletes in the Olympics, said in a speech.

Arisa Go, a 34-year-old female speed skater, who will serve as a flag-bearer at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony on Friday, was given the Japanese team’s flag from Japanese Olympic Committee President Yasuhiro Yamashita via Hidehito Ito, who heads the delegation.

The Japanese delegation has a total of 262 members, including 124 athletes, the most for Winter Olympics held abroad, as well as coaches and officials.

Only four people from the squad of athletes, including general manager Masahiko Harada, attended Saturday’s ceremony, held at Grand Prince Hotel Shin Takanawa in Tokyo’s Minato Ward, in order to reduce the risk of infection with the novel coronavirus. Other athletes watched the ceremony online.

Nordic combined skier Akito Watabe, 33, who is scheduled to serve as a flag-bearer with Go, was absent because he is participating in a competition event overseas.

“I hope that your hard work will pay off and you will perform well, Crown Prince Akishino, who attended the ceremony with his wife, Crown Princess Kiko, said, while asking athletes and others to take care not to get infected with the coronavirus.

Ito, an official of the Japan Skating Federation, said at a press conference, “We aim to win more gold medals than we did in the Pyeongchang Olympics [in South Korea].” In the 2018 Games, Japan bagged 13 gold medals, a record high for the country in Winter Olympics.

The main unit of Japanese athletes will leave for Beijing on a flight from Tokyo International Airport at Haneda on Sunday.