Over a third of the 207 countries and regions that will be sending athletes to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics still do not have host towns to welcome them, a government tally shows.
Under the government's host town initiative, local residents will interact with overseas Olympians and Paralympians through activities before and after the games to deepen understanding, a program unique to Japan.
As of July 29, 416 municipalities had been registered as host towns for 136 countries and regions.
The central government, which will offer subsidies for exchange activities, is trying to encourage municipalities to apply to become host towns for the remaining 71 countries and regions participating at the upcoming Summer Games.
The program has been modeled after a government initiative that linked schools and overseas teams at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
To become a host town, a municipal government must register with the central government which participating country or region it is interested in having exchanges with.
Taiwan is the most popular, with more than 20 municipalities registered as its hosts. One country or region can have multiple municipalities as hosts because each registration is linked to an Olympic or Paralympic sport.
On the other hand, many African, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries do not have hosts yet. Efforts to create ties have been hampered as some of the countries do not have embassies in Tokyo.
"We have created points of contact (between the overseas countries and regions and) local municipalities through JICA and embassies in Tokyo but there are limits," said an official at the Cabinet Secretariat's office for promoting the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency is a government-linked aid agency that has connections with developing countries.
The central government is hoping to promote the host town initiative to African nations during the three-day Tokyo International Conference on African Development to be held in Yokohama, southwest of the capital, from Aug 28.
Olympics minister Shunichi Suzuki is expected to engage in outreach during related events.
"We would like to connect as many nations and Japanese municipalities as possible to leave opportunities for further exchanges as a legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics," said Mie Katsuno, an official in charge of planning and implementing the host town initiative.© KYODO