Tokyo Olympics is looking for volunteers, but may have a hard time finding them

By RocketNews24

You don’t get many chances to be a part of sports history, and judging by the standards for volunteers set by the The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, this isn’t one either.

On July 4, news organization Asahi Shimbun reported on a draft of requirements to become a volunteer for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games issued by the Organising Committee. Here is a brief rundown of some of the conditions and qualities that a potential volunteer should be able to meet.

Possess communication skills Speak a foreign language Work over ten eight-hour days Have knowledge of events or experience watching them live Be over 18 years old in 2020 Go through three stages of training and an interview Pay for own transportation and accommodation

Of course, this being a volunteer position, there is no payment for those selected, but the Organising Committee points out that they can keep their uniforms for free. You might be wondering why someone with such skills and availability would want to help out at the Olympics for next to nothing, and you wouldn’t be alone judging by some of the many comments that poured in.

“They wasted so much money on this pork barrel and now expect to get skilled workers for free? I mean why would they actually give some of the money back to the regular people?” “I’d have a hard time hiring people like that for 2,000 yen (US$20) an hour.” “This is what happens when they squander money on things that aren’t needed. Welcome to the low-(labor)-cost Olympics!”

Also, the Organising Committee isn’t just looking for a few good bilingual men and women, but need about 80,000 of them to keep the games running smoothly. Apparently in anticipation of widespread scoffing, the committee was also quick to point out that the 2012 London Olympics managed to get 70,000 volunteers selected from a field of 240,000 applicants.

It remains to be seen if the Japanese are quite as enthusiastic as the British when it comes to helping out at the Olympics. Given the bilingual factor and public’s growing resentment of the string of scandals coming out of these Games, it does seem less likely.

However, this isn’t Japan’s first Olympics either, so the committee must have some sense of the limits of their recruitment drive. A few commenters remember how it was done before.

“During the Nagano Games, the volunteers were sent from companies.” “These ‘volunteers’ are going to come from corporations. If you happen to work for an Olympic sponsor, good luck!” “I can hear those company slaves singing ‘Kimigayo’ already.”

Also, the Labor Standards Bureau issued a warning during the Nagano Olympics that since those employees sent on Olympic “business trips” are technically doing “volunteer work,” they aren’t eligible for certain rights such as worker’s compensation in the even of an accident.

However, 80,000, is a lot of people and there is sure to be a healthy mix of “company slaves” alongside people who are simply drawn to the pure spirit of human competition and sportsmanship. If you are one of those people, there is plenty of time to apply before volunteers are chosen in August 2018 and begin their first level of training.

That should give you a good chunk of time to pick up a working knowledge of Icelandic and watch plenty of water polo games.

Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Tokyo 2020, B! Hatena, Netlab

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Yahoo! Japan’s “50%-off” campaign isn’t quite what it seems -- This new convenience store isn’t so convenient for the blind… -- Online auction market booming for posters with cancelled, possibly copied 2020 Olympics emblem

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

I think people are missing the point. The Olympic Games are usually staffed by volunteers. That's part of the Olympic spirit. Many of the athletes themselves are essentially volunteers themselves forgoing lucrative professional athlete status to maintain their amateur eligibility. My father has been a volunteer at dozens of Olympics around the world. He has never received any monetary compensation and has always paid for his airfare, lodging, meals, etc. There's a reason why he does it time after time. It's an experience unlike any other.

-8 ( +8 / -16 )

The Olympic Games are usually staffed by volunteers. That's part of the Olympic spirit. Many of the athletes themselves are essentially volunteers themselves forgoing lucrative professional athlete status to maintain their amateur eligibility.

Heather you are about 25 years behind the times. Professionalism is de rigueur in the Olympics. Where do you get 80,000 nearly fluent English speakers from in Japan without paying them? I would guess most of them are employed already.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

So, randomnator, how many times have you been compensated as a volunteer at the Olympics?

-15 ( +4 / -19 )

There are probably more deserving causes that could use these volunteer hours. But if the Coca-Cola sponsored Olympics can be a way of giving people their first taste of volunteering, so be it.

they can keep their uniforms for free.

The IOC has clearly done their research on what motivates people in Japan.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

My MIL used to work for the swimming federation but they forced her to retire, and then have bullied her into 'volunteering'. Now she works several days a week over 10 hours each day on a completely 'voluntary' basis. She seems to hate it and has had to cancel travel plans to fulfill her 'voluntary' obligations. She's mentioned cutting ties several times in the past (she's almost 70, it's rough on her) but apparently she'd basically be shunned from the swimming community where most of her close friendships have come from and in Japan there's basically nothing worse than being the odd one out. A shame, really.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

I agree with Heather. A large amount of the volunteers would be sport specific. Like myself, I am an official for the Cycling Fed and help officiate a dozen or so professional and amateur bicycle races every year. And... Yes, it's considered volunteer work. It's the same with almost all sports in Japan. There are very few officials in any sport that don't have a "day job". I would love to go and help out at the Olympics. That would be a trip to be able to say that I helped officiate the Olympics.

...and about the foreign language speakers being employed already, I hope so. Or else they wouldn't be able to afford to volunteer. I would assume that many of the volunteers would be willing to take leave from work to volunteer. I would.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Speak a foreign language- Work over ten eight-hour days- Have knowledge of events or experience watching them live- Be over 18 years old in 2020- Go through three stages of training and an interview- Pay for own transportation and accommodation.

Also, the Labor Standards Bureau issued a warning during the Nagano Olympics that since those employees sent on Olympic “business trips” are technically doing “volunteer work,” they aren’t eligible for certain rights such as worker’s compensation in the even of an accident.

Also, the Organising Committee isn’t just looking for a few good bilingual men and women, but need about 80,000 of them to keep the games running smoothly.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Good one! Oh man! Worthy of stand-up comedy!!

Apparently in anticipation of widespread scoffing,

Try bursts of frenzied laughter at the committee's stupidity

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Yeah. Uh-huh. Good luck with that.

No way I can take two weeks off of work to get to keep a uniform.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I woud never volunteer an organization that is making money ! An if you can afford going volunteering around the world, then you are part of the rich elite. The public pays to watch beause people are paid to get them prepared. Point. BTW, volunteering makes the ones who need to work be considered less worthy. Every work (8 h/days on a temporary or permanent basis) needs compensation. It is caused slavery otherwise. French have fought for rights to the people and won't let that happen anytime soon on a large scale.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If former prime minister Koizumi, Aso, Hosokawa, Mori and all the other bunch of Japanese lazy bureaucrats, so called elites, will volunteer I will too. Otherwise don't expect me to use my talents and skills for their short lived glory.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Volunteering for the Olympics is like volunteering to work at Mos Burger and having to buy your uniform.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

There is a fine line between helping a communal event to succeed through community spirit and simply being taken for a mug by cunning people who are pedaling idealism while quietly getting rich off your labor.

This isn't a fine line, it's a gaping chasm. The Olympics is not a charity, huge amounts of money are spent on designing and building the facilities, and huge amounts of money are made. It's a business, pure and simple, and if they want people to provide skilled labour then they need to pay the going rate.

That said, I know at least two people who ever since Tokyo got the Olympics have talked about almost nothing but how they are going to work to improve their English skills so that they can volunteer at the Olympics. One lady gave up her job to enrol in an interpreting course, costing her a fair bit of money, both for the course and in lost earnings.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

During the Nagano Olympics in '98 a person from each of the city offices/board of educations from my area was sent to volunteer.

The villages/towns would pay the expenses. Quite a few people wanted to go and the ones who did said they had a pretty good time.

With all the villages/towns/cities contributing at least one person, they'd be able to get a few thousand volunteers. This way the whole country could help out a little bit with manpower.

I wonder how they did it with the Tokyo '64 Olympics. It was so well run.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Japanese society runs on volunteering. Every festival, local community, school PTA, inaka fire brigade, etc. is run by them. The only point is that Japanese people do not use the katakana word "volunteer" for this. It's referred to as "touban" or "youji" or "otetsudai" or something. But its volunteering in the meaning of the English word. The katakana word "volunteer" appears to get left to disaster relief and one-shot events like the Olympics, stuff that is much more high profile that someone in an inaka fire brigade or stringing up lanterns for a festival.

I know from first-hand experience that post-earthquake volunteers are not allowed to do an eight hour day. It was more like five and a half hours. And that was in an emergency. Scheduling people to do 10 eight-hour shifts for a commercial event smacks of exploitation.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I have been waiting for info about this. The Tokyo2020 wed site have no info but a notice stating that info will be posted by 2018. it stated if going off others pervious games, info about volunteers was post 2 years out. I was going to apply but having to pay for your own transport is something I am not prepared to paid for. This I find amazing. I can understand not forking out for accommodation but not to provide free public transport is being a tight %^^.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Count me in, please!!

Any idea where to register?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I treasure the Olympics and have watched every single one of them since I was a little kid. I would give up a lot to volunteer for the Olympics, and I very well may do this considering my daughter is Half-Japanese and my family lives in Tokyo. This would be a dream come true to say I was part of something so special to the world's history.

That being said, I have to give a lot of respect to Heather, who commented earlier, and also the guy who has helped out as a volunteer in his's people like you and Heather's father who are heroes to me. This isn't about money, and to answer the question as to why anyone on earth would donate their time for free to a company making money, it's really simple: It's what the Olympics represent that is worth donating your time too. Just like people all over the world donate hundreds if not thousands of volunteer hours to churches, who also make's because of what the churches represent. Believe it or not people, there are some things more important to be part of than earning a paycheck.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

I love how they pointed out the London Olympics.... I remember it all over the news how they purposely accepted and advertised to jobless people and also immigrants. At first they promised pay then back tracked on that, then they offered free accommodation, and of course back tracked on that.

It was so bad that volunteers had to sleep under bridges or face the full force of the 'lovely' British weather, either that or pay out a fortune in hotel fees (all the hotels were booked so that would have been impossible).

Is Japan expecting the same thing with their volunteers? Having them sleep on the street or under bridges? I understand they have said you have to pay for your own accommodation but realistically is there even going to be any free rooms in any hotels during that time? Maybe I should advertise my spare room and make a little cash on the side (I joke).

2 ( +4 / -2 )

what the Olympics represent

What is that these days? And how does your ideal reconcile with the profiteering, bribery, graft and crime associated with it? The people in Athens, Beijing, Rio that are still paying the economic and social cost of being hosts overwhelmingly have voiced their regret poll after poll after poll.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Perhaps the organizers are expecting volunteers to recover their travel and accommodation expenses by selling Olympic memorabilia on Yahoo auction?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

They need to do this to save money for the stadium they have yet to start building

1 ( +3 / -2 )

This volunteer thing is going to turn very very messy....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The most successful Olympics are judged by a number of measurements and one of the MOST important is by the number and friendliness of the volunteers. If Japan cant get the amount of volunteers it needs it will show the country in a negative light.

Most countries hosting an Olympics have many more people who want to be a part of the history and tradition of an Olympics, that more people apply than can be used.

Having recently been in Japan I found the people and service to be of a high standard. Don't let your country down by failing to value being a volunteer at a special occasion like the Olympics. Its a privilege many are unable to achieve.

In many cases your working up close to sporting heroes from around the world. It is an Honor to become a part of such an event. Enjoy it as the exceptional once in a life time experience it is. Its not really work.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

You get what you pay for.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I volunteer to stay exactly where I am.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

If I lived near the venues (and hence did not have to pay for transportation or lodging), had the free time, and didn't need to make money during said time, I'd volunteer. But since they would need 80,000 of such people I just don't see it happening. There have to be more perks besides a volunteer uniform you can keep. Why not set up some kind of temporary lodging somewhere if volunteers are willing to come in from far, and offer to give meal vouchers on volunteer days?

There should be more besides, but they might have to shell out in the end if they want people who are willing and know what they are doing, but I fear what'll end up happening is the corporate sponsor scenario mentioned above -- 'volunteers' will be shipped in as mandatory work, and probably even forced to take a holiday to do it.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I have the time, I can speak both Japanese and English, I know the subway and layout of tokyo like a cab driver and I have a place to stay. It is up the back of Ito. It is 1 hour from the front door to Tokyo station by local and the Shinkansen from Atami. It will cost me Y60,000 for a 21 day JR pass. I been very interested in volunteering since Tokyo won and did my logistic. But I like to be reiburst for the JR pass. So I won,t be volunteering now on hearing of not providing transport.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My father has been a volunteer at dozens of Olympics around the world.

Dozens? let's take the lowest plural at it's lowest number of two. Two dozen Olympics. 96 years of volunteering. Probably longer as the war stopped some meets. Longevity runs in the family does it Heather?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I am volunteering to cook breakfast for the people I hopefully can rent two bedrooms to for $30,000.

I will even by the renters Happi Coats and give them natto for breakfast with a raw egg, rice, miso soup, pickles and a deliciously grilled Aji.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Volunteering for a cause is a great way for young people to gain experience and I'm sure the organizers count on that to motivate language learners jump on it.

Doing it for a profit and waste organization though is not the best way I guess... As noted - just reducing the huge salaries of officials and advisors, taking the right decisions (abandoned stadium plan means fines for change in contract), etc. can be spread to the people that will do the hard work in the field.

I'm sure my daughter will be excited to get into the Olympics kitchen but I'm afraid she would have to cover her travel expenses!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pay peanuts, and you get monkeys.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I want to participate. I`m going through the official site for registration. Would be great experience.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

SimondB, Olympics happen every 2 years, not every 4. Granted the summer Olympics happen every 4 and the winter every 4 but at 2 dozen that comes out to 48 years. Math son, math. Still, I would be surprised if this is actually true.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

IOC will rake in billions and they expect a voluntary workforce! Like the worst combination of a dictatorship and corporation. The Olympic Spirit has been a huge Olympic systemic scam since forever.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

 Dozens? let's take the lowest plural at it's lowest number of two. Two dozen Olympics.

Perhaps she meant 'dozens of Olympic events'? Why so quick to jump down people's throats for what may be a simple mistake?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Paying the 80,000 people a $500 stipend a day would mean roughly 440 million over eleven days. Given the billions sloshed around, yes, the Olympics really can pay their indentured host servants. The jerseys the staff wear could even have logos or corporate sponsor(s).

Making staff work eight hour days should be reduced to 5 due to it being Tokyo in July. 8 hour days is just asking for heat stroke and exhaustion, an issue in the news of late showing Japan quite clearly not understanding that it's important to treat people better. By avoiding problems there is an incentive for staff to attend events that they should have the perk of seeing for free.

Thus the number of staff should probably be higher.

What logistics will be in place to help keep everyone from quitting? Free transit, water, food, cooling areas, all need their own pavilions. You need to schedule washroom breaks, water and food runs, for people everywhere, especially those stuck in odd locations.

When I was a kid I worked in games at Canada's Wonderland, a large amusement park, and the support behind the scenes was always about the staff health and happiness.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Whether they get the 80 000 volunteers they need will come down to supply and demand. The more supply exceeds demand the higher the quality of the volunteers will be. As for the status of the athletes regarding their remuneration; today it will vary from possibly millions to absolutely nothing or less. I used to be an athlete, I won over fifty races but only received prize money for one of those. I was good enough to be in my national team in World Championship events but our event was not and still isn't an Olympic event. Had it been an Olympic event I'm sure I would have been in my national team for the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and possibly gained a team medal. There are many other popular sports that are not represented in the Olympics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The biggest problem I see in Japan is that most people are not allowed to take more than a week of vacation at once. Japanese people, when they want to travel or even take a training course for more than a week, usually quit their jobs. Even if they can find 40,000 people willing to slog to the far corner of the world, they still will need another 40,000 who either work at companies sympathetic to the cause, or who are willing to quit their jobs - and potentially restart a new one at an unliveable salary - for the Olympics. I say this as a current Olympic volunteer at Rio, who had to endure hours of lecture about how bad of a person I am to desert the company during the Olympics.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Looks like this isn't working so well in Rio:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites