Justin Fumiya Imagawa, a member of the team organising the judo competitions at Tokyo 2020, says he is enjoying the extra preparation time afforded by the postponement of the Games due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Imagawa, who is Canadian born, is the first and only employee of the All Japan Judo Federation (AJJF) to not be a native of Japan.
A former judoka, Imagawa represented the Canadian national judo team.
Imagawa has dedicated his life to the sport and is now a key member of the Organising Committee responsible for delivering the judo competitions at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, rearranged to 2021 because of COVID-19.
"Organising all competitions, whether a Worlds, a Grand Slam, an Olympic Games, is challenging, but one year extra means another year to cement positive working relationships with international colleagues," said Imagawa.
"I love the networking. Usually the preparation for the Olympics forces us to just get the job done.
"An extra year gives us a unique set of extra hours to fine tune tiny details and deliver a truly special Olympic Judo event and that’s exactly what we plan to do.
"A real positive for me is the extra time to polish the best of our work and really solidify excellent working processes with great people.
"The postponement of the majority of public events, the world over, has been hard to take, but to have moved the Olympic Games is something no-one could have foreseen. It’s hit many very hard.
"It’s been more than disappointing, so many feelings of uncertainty.
"Athletes are devastated and there are sponsors, the International Judo Federation (IJF) and the Japanese people - everyone is affected.
"We’ve all had it pulled away after years of build-up.
"There are new challenges every day and all stakeholders now need to feel stable again.
"About a month ago we experienced a second wave of COVID-19 (in Japan) but the numbers are steadily decreasing now and even judo is beginning to start back, with different regions able to train with different levels of contact, in line with local rules.
"The Japanese National Championships is scheduled to take place at the end of October, following AJJF COVID-19 protocols. This is a real goal and brings some much-needed hope.
"In Japan, where I have lived for the past eight years, judo is a part of the curriculum, embedded in the culture.
"It’s not as simple as closing judo clubs temporarily. Everyone has had a period of cessation but here it’s just as unthinkable as asking schools to stop teaching mathematics.
"Tokyo is a turbo, minute-by-minute city and the slow-down has been welcome in many ways, even if it wasn’t invited."
The World Judo Tour announced plans for a resumption last month, and has scheduled Grand Slam events in Budapest, Hungary in October and Tokyo in December.
Imagawa said the Grand Slam events would be an important part of preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
"I was super-excited when the IJF released their plans for the end of year Grand Slams," said Imagawa.
"The success of these events will be a huge milestone in the path to the Olympic Games.
"The global situation means the Japanese people really need a boost in confidence.
"The AJJF is working with the Government and Sport Ministry so we can host the Tokyo Grand Slam at the end of 2020.
"The AJJF hosting an international event of this stature will put us in a great place to deliver the Olympic Games next summer.
"Making the Tokyo Grand Slam a success is the current priority and we will ensure that all guidelines and protocols locally, from the IJF and the AJJF are followed, in order to keep everyone safe and showcase the highest level of judo."
The judo competition at the rearranged Tokyo 2020 Olympics is scheduled to take place from July 24 to 31 2021.