The Tokyo Olympics added skateboarding, surfing and sport climbing to attract a younger population, but even a medal race was not enough to convince some young Japanese people.
Skateboarding resumed on Wednesday after Yuto Horigome, 22, won the sport’s first gold medal for Japan and Momiji Nishiya, 13, became the country’s youngest Olympic champion with a victory in the women’s event.
And Japan took the gold yet again, with Sakura Yosozumi taking first place in the women’s park alongside her teammate Kokona Hiraki, 12, with the silver.
But for Emiya Ajisaka and her classmates, watching Olympic sport on television is not a priority.
“Nobody really talks about the Olympics around me,” the 13-year-old told AFP as he played soccer with friends in a park near some Tokyo 2020 venues.
“I’m more likely to watch YouTube, hang out with my friends and play video games,” he said, adding that he only planned to watch Olympic football games on TV.
“The World Cup was a lot more fun, wasn’t it? he said to his friends, who nodded in agreement.
Long before Japan started racking up medals, including silver and bronze in surfing, opinion polls showed younger generations were less interested in the Olympics.
About 63% of people in their 20s said they were ‘somewhat or very’ interested in the Games, compared to about 85% of people in their 60s, according to a 2019 survey by the public broadcaster’s research unit. NHK.
“I don’t like the Olympics, but for me, the Olympics are not that high in my priorities, and I don’t feel so compelled to watch them live,” Ryo Kawasaki, a 24-year-old web engineer , said in a block room in Tokyo.
“If I have days off, I look for places to travel and a hot spring or go out to watch movies. And then if I have more time, I could take a look at the Olympics. “
Munehiko Harada, president of Osaka University of Health and Sports Sciences, believes the coronavirus pandemic is “one of the factors of low interest among young people.”
This has forced the historic one-year postponement of the event and means that most competitions are held without spectators, thus eliminating the chances of young people to watch their favorite sport live.
– ‘Do not pay attention’ –
Kosei Fujiwara, a 13-year-old high school student, said the decision to go ahead with the Olympics despite the pandemic had turned him against the Games.
“It’s wrong to invite a lot of people from all over the world to Tokyo where infections are skyrocketing,” Fujiwara said as he played basketball with his friends.
“If there hadn’t been a pandemic, I would have supported the Olympics. “
Interest in sport among the younger generations remains relatively high, especially with a renewed interest in staying active during Covid-19 lockdowns, Harada said.
“But when it comes to the Olympics, their interest is clearly low… in part because of the variety of entertainment options available to younger generations,” said the sports marketing professor.
Hiroto Inoue, a 21-year-old college student, said the Olympics did not engage him on issues that are important to him, such as the environment.
“I don’t pay much attention to watching the Olympics,” he told AFP. “I am focusing on an environmental business forum that I am organizing at the end of August. “
Yoshifusa Ichii, professor of sports and society at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, said older generations in Japan have an emotional attachment to the Olympics after Tokyo hosted them in 1964.
“It was a symbolic event that reminded people of how Japan was recovering and developing in the post-war era,” Ichii said.
Many young Japanese people don’t have a similar connection to the Olympics, he added.
But there are teenagers who have been drawn to the Games, and its new sports in particular.
Haru Fujirai, 11, said he was inspired by Japanese skateboarding champion Nishiya.
“I saw a girl who is only two years older than me win gold at the Olympics,” said Fujirai, who just started skating last year.
“I want to train more and participate in the Olympics one day. “
© 2021 AFP