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86-year-old creator of 6-language Summer Olympic dictionary has eyes on future

Hideo Honda is pictured with a volume of his 6-language Summer Olympic dictionary in Saitama. He plans to work on an expanded edition when a decision is reached on the addition of new events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (Mainichi)

SAITAMA -- A former physical education teacher has produced a six-language dictionary of terms relating to the Summer Olympic Games following nearly two decades of work.

    The five-volume "Kaki Olympic Rokkakokugo Jiten" (Summer Olympic 6-language dictionary) compiled by 86-year-old Hideo Honda, a resident of Saitama, spans 2,000 pages. In addition to Japanese terms, entries appear in French and English (the official languages of the International Olympic Committee), as well as German, Russian and Spanish. Published by Sankeisha Co., the dictionary includes the spellings and pronunciations of prominent words relating to Summer Olympic sports.

    After graduating from Tokyo University of Education (now Tsukuba University), Honda worked at locations including a high school in Tokyo, teaching volleyball. He started teaching himself Russian to study practice methods, and traveled to Russia before 1964, when Japanese citizens were granted permission to freely travel overseas, buying technical books. During the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, he served as an event official for the final of the women's volleyball, in which the Japanese team, dubbed the "Witches of the Orient," beat Russia.

    Honda first came up with the idea of compiling a multilingual dictionary after Nagano was picked to host the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. Using his experience of having translated specialist books, he spent several years completing a dictionary of Winter Olympic terms. He next turned his attention to a Summer Olympic edition, but in line with the 2002 FIFA World Cup held in Japan and South Korea, he first put out a dictionary of soccer terms. Honda was subsequently plagued by the increasing number of events at the Summer Olympics as well as repeated rule changes. He also has diabetes and was hospitalized for a time. It was last year that he finally managed to publish the dictionary.

    During his visits to various countries, Honda collected nearly a metric ton of material. When the dictionary was published, he discarded the majority of it. In September last year, however, the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games decided to recommend for the Tokyo Games the addition of 18 new medal events spanning five sports. Honda collected information on skateboarding and other events he was not familiar with, and again set to work. He plans to publish an expanded edition.

    "And I had thought my role was finally at an end," he said with a strained laugh. Still, Honda's face beams with a sense of fulfillment.

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