Solidarity and Filipino sportsmanship shine in Tokyo 2020

Solidarity and Filipino sportsmanship shine in Tokyo 2020

After inspiring the world with athleticism and sportsmanship, the curtain has officially closed for the Tokyo 2020 Games. The year of preparation and anticipation to ensure that the Games would be a safe and secure environment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic was worthwhile. It was a heart-warming experience to know that the whole world was together, after a long time of distancing, to witness history made, records broken and new stars born. Especially here in the Philippines, the support for the Tokyo 2020 Games was astounding. Allow me to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to the Filipino people for their support of Japan’s hosting of the Olympics and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 will undoubtedly be remembered for many aspects. Its postponement and subsequent staging, albeit without an audience, attracted a cacophony of voices. In the end, history will prove the significance of this international event. For the first time since the pandemic began, the world came together as one. The uniting power of sports joined our emotions together. The brilliance of athletes from around the world shone brightly against the darkness of empty stadiums, to set ablaze hope, healing and inspiration for everyone. I hope that the Games will stand tall as proof that humanity will not be defeated by the pandemic. Faster, higher, stronger – together.

The bond of Japan and the Philippines stands as a testament to the power of solidarity, and Tokyo 2020 highlights the lasting ties made by our peoples. Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz shines as a perfect example. The passion that fueled her monumental gold medal win has inspired many around the world. Her historic achievement is a glimmer of hope for the youth who will bring her legacy to the next generation. At the same time, it highlights the depth of our human connection. A few months before making history, Hidilyn Diaz shared her time with us and joined our celebration of 65 years of Japan-Philippine Friendship. We got a glimpse of hard work and perseverance in the few moments of her video message.

Besides the demonstration of skill, the humility and graciousness of Filipino athletes underscored the solidarity of our people. Boxer Nesthy Petecio and skateboarder Margielyn Didal are a few whose sincerity captured many hearts. Images of Nesthy Petecio hugging and congratulating Irie Sena showed a touching moment of true sportsmanship. In the same vein, the smile and vitality Margielyn Didal shared was a refreshing reminder that the Games is more than a competition; it is a platform for camaraderie and togetherness. Both Nesthy Petecio and Margielyn Didal’s displays of sportsmanship earned the respect of many Japanese, including myself, proving that great athletes are always fair, polite and gracious even to an opponent.

Our solidarity in sports also stands tall even outside Tokyo 2020. Programs like the Sports for Tomorrow initiative have played significant roles to strengthen people-to-people exchanges. Likewise, the Philippines has also been actively participating in Japan’s sports initiatives. For one, the ASIAN ELEVEN: Football Exchange Project and JAPAN-ASEAN JITA-KYOEI PROJECT helped the promotion of football and judo in the Philippines and cultivated trust, confidence and mutual understanding. These programs elevated and fortified the bonds of our countries.

Tokyo 2020 stands not just for athleticism but most especially for bilateral solidarity. Filipino athletes in Japan, through their camaraderie and sincerity, emboldened many audiences who are suffering from COVID-19 in both countries. Furthermore, this golden moment falls timely in the golden era of our bilateral relations, making the 65th anniversary of Japan-Philippine Friendship even more meaningful. I hope that this solidarity will go beyond our bonds in sports and deepen our partnerships and brotherhood. After all, the heart-touching scenes of Filipino athletes in Tokyo 2020 are the shining gold medals in our bilateral relationship.

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Koshikawa Kazuhiko is the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines. Follow him on Twitter @AmbJPNinPH

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