Thursday, October 1, 2015

One Year Out From Olympics, JAAF Seeks to Solve Problems by Creating New Committees and Dangling Carrots

translated by Brett Larner

At a meeting of its board of directors Sept. 30 in Tokyo, the JAAF made the decision to establish a new Strengthening Promotion Committee.  The new committee will have authority over the existing Strengthening Committee.  JAAF executive director Mitsugi Ogata, 56, commented, "Up to now our strengthening activities have focused on producing the best performances at a particular time, but from now on we want to consider strategy through a variety of eyes and minds."

Citing the Japanese performance at August's Beijing World Championships, where the national team's total of one bronze medal and two top eight performances fell far short of JAAF projections, the board approved the resignation of Strengthening Committee chairman Yasuhiro Harada.  The promotion of vice-chairman Kazunori Asaba was also approved pending the outcome of committee restructuring.  Along with Toshihiko Seko, Naoko Takahashi and Koji Murofushi, outside experts including coaches and gold medalists in a variety of disciplines were named to the executive committee made up of roughly ten people.

Within the JAAF's restructuring less than a year before the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics lies a strong sense of crisis.  Newly-formed divisions include a Medical Science Information Committee and Women's Division within the Strengthening Committee.  Whether either will be able to effect dramatic change is unknown. 

Alongside the committee shuffling, the board also approved a new bonus structure for medals at the Rio Olympics.  A gold medal there will be worth 20 million yen [~$165,000 USD at current exchange rates], double the size of the carrot dangled before London Olympians.  Will this have any effect in producing medalists? 

The amount of the medal bonus depends on the medal's color and will be paid out through a combination of the relevant discipline's association, teams and sponsors.  Along with the 20 million yen gold medal bonus, silver medalists will receive 10 million yen [~$83,000 USD] and bronze medalists 8 million yen [~$66,000 USD].  In comparison, at the London Olympics cycling gold medalists received a 30 million yen bonus [~$380,000 USD at that time's exchange rate] while gold medalists in swimming received just 2 million yen [~$25,500 USD].  The JAAF bonuses are in addition to JOC bonuses of 3 million yen [~$25,000 USD] for gold, 2 million yen [~$16,500 USD] for silver and 1 million yen [~$8000 USD] for bronze.

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