What a difference a month makes - as it turned out, the Games were just the unifying tonic the world has been sorely in need of during these times when we are so cut off from each other. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
With all eyes on Japan, the Foundation saw the Olympics as the perfect opportunity to showcase some Japanese culture to a New Zealand audience so teamed up with the New Zealand Olympic Committee to hold a Japan stand at the Olympic Fanzone, located in The Cloud on Auckland’s waterfront.
Over the 16 days of the Olympics, some 25,000 people, including more than 5000 school children, passed through the Cloud to cheer on our athletes, try their skills at various sports and learn a little about Japanese culture and language at the Foundation’s stand.
I managed to get down to The Cloud myself and I must say it was fantastic to see the excited and enthusiastic faces of the school students who visited.
Lots of people were involved in making our Olympic activation at The Cloud a success, but I’d like to particularly acknowledge the incredible help provided to us by the Japanese Society of Auckland.
Throughout the duration of the Olympics, volunteers from the society warmly greeted visitors to the Foundation’s stand, demonstrated origami, helped kids write their names in katakana (Japanese script) and taught visitors a few Japanese words and phrases. That human interaction really made a big difference. And we also want to acknowledge the city of Atsugi, a host town for the Olympics and Paralympics. Children from Atsugi shared some Japanese tips with New Zealanders in a video filmed for us by the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo – check it out to get ready to cheer on the Kiwi athletes competing in the Paralympics next week.
The power of sports to cross borders and unite people is why the Foundation wanted to be involved in the Olympic Fanzone, and it is why we launched our sports programme in 2017. Pre-Covid, the programme helped dozens of individual sportspeople and teams to include cultural elements – from tours of shrines to visits to sumo stables - to their Japan itinerary.
Athletes we supported not only developed their own understanding of Japan but returned home and shared their stories with friends and whānau. We believe that the “language of sport” is an important tool in building New Zealanders’ confidence with Asia. We're looking forward to supporting our Paralympians when the Paralympics open this weekend.
Between 5000 and 6000 students visited the Cloud over the duration of the Olympics
The launch of the Foundation's latest research looking at South Island business links to Asia
The month ahead is going to be a focused one at the Foundation, especially for our business team. On 31 August in Christchurch, we launch our latest research report looking at the South Island’s business links with Asia and will be holding events to promote this research in Blenheim, Nelson, Queenstown and Invercargill over the following fortnight.
The research provides some fascinating insights into New Zealand-Asia business interactions, so I encourage anyone with an interest in the topic to come along, hear from some of the leading thinkers in this space and network with other businesses with a similar trade focus. You'll be able to access the report on the Foundation's website on 1 September.