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10,000 volunteers assist at Tokyo Marathon; many looking ahead to 2020 Tokyo Games

A police officer on a Segway PT provides security near the Tokyo Marathon course on Feb. 28, 2016. (Mainichi)

Some 10,000 volunteers assisted the 36,647 runners who participated in the Tokyo Marathon on Feb. 28, and many are enthusiastic about volunteering at the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, set to be held in Tokyo.

    Junko Komura, 59, from Tokyo's Meguro Ward, was stationed near the goal area, where she directed foreign runners to changing rooms, speaking in English.

    Some 6,400 foreign runners -- a record high -- took part in this year's marathon, and race organizer Tokyo Marathon Foundation increased the number of multilingual volunteers from approximately 300 last year to around 700 this year. Komura found out about the volunteer opportunity through the marathon's official website, and this was her first time working at a sporting event.

    "When I congratulate runners on their hard work, they respond with high fives," Komura said. "I want to be involved in the Olympics, too." She added that she wanted to gain more experience volunteering at sporting events prior to the Olympics, but didn't know where to inquire about such opportunities.

    Volunteer Junko Komura, right, directs a runner who has finished the marathon toward the changing rooms. (Mainichi)

    In the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, 80,000 volunteers are said to be needed at athletic facilities where the events will take place, and another 10,000 volunteers are said to be needed as "city volunteers." Yuki Morimura, 41, the managing director of Paracup, a general incorporated association that organizes charity marathons, says, "I don't think it'll be difficult to gather 90,000 volunteers," and cites the volunteer opportunities at the Tokyo Marathon as having popularized the concept.

    However, there are few bodies that have a comprehensive grasp of what events and organizations require, and the kind and numbers of volunteers they need.

    "We need a framework in which we can tap into the enthusiasm of people who already have an interest," Morimura says.

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