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JOC to give public more access to send-off gatherings for athletes

Tsunekazu Takeda, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee, is pictured at the committee's headquarters in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on May 23, 2018. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) is set to allow public organizations such as schools and hospitals to open their send-off gatherings for Japanese athletes in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 to the general public, the committee chief said.

The move comes in response to calls from some organizations urging that the JOC ease its restrictions on the opening of such send-off gatherings to the public to further boost their interest in the upcoming games.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said the matter should be left to the discretion of each country. JOC President Tsunekazu Takeda said in a recent Mainichi Shimbun interview, "It's only natural that we'll take responsibility for the matter."

Takeda then said such send-off gatherings to be held at public facilities, including schools, hospitals, fire stations, police and Self-Defense Forces facilities, are highly likely to be able to be opened to the public.

"These public organizations' lines of work don't overlap with the business categories of sponsors of the Tokyo Games. There are no concerns that these organizations cause problems involving ambush marketing," Takeda said.

The JOC has utilized its intellectual properties such as the Olympic logos to make sponsorship contracts with businesses and used money from the sponsors to develop and train athletes to send them to international competitions.

The Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics organizing committee, which is allowed to share these intellectual properties until the end of the Tokyo Games, is jointly conducting marketing activities with the JOC.

The JOC head commented that the committee will consider whether send-off meetings at venues other than public facilities can be opened to the public while consulting with the organizing committee.

"While protecting the rights of the sponsors, we'd like to consider the possibility (of allowing other organizations to open their send-off meetings to the public). We'll make judgments on each case while talking with the organizing committee," he said.

Under the JOC guidelines for the protection of Olympic intellectual property set in line with IOC rules, Olympic sponsors, local governments and sports associations are allowed to open their send-off meetings for athletes to the general public. Restrictions were placed on the opening to the public of send-off gatherings held by organizations to which athletes participating in the February Pyeongchang Winter Olympic and Paralympic belonged.

The Association of Private Universities of Japan, the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other organizations have called for improvement in the practice saying such restrictions could pour cold water on the upsurge of public interest in the upcoming games.

(Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department)

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