Students from Tohoku head to Switzerland as future reconstruction leaders

The President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Thomas Bach and the six students from the Tohoku region at Olympic house ⒸSOK

Jan 8, 2020 - Jan 23, 2020

The Japanese teenagers have embarked on a homestay program around Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games and meet with representatives of important international organizations such as Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee.

Part of the “Inclusion and long-term rehabilitation” pillar, the Support Our Kids (SOK) project offers overseas homestay opportunities to children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, with the aim to provide these “reconstruction ambassadors” with a global perspective.

Following the success of the last homestay which took place between March 22 and April 5, 2019, SOK is embarking on a 17-days homestay program in Switzerland for the newly selected 6 students, in close collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland in Japan. Taking place from January 8 to 22, the homestay program runs in conjunction with the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games which kicked off on January 9.

During the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, students could already participate in the opening ceremony, watch the competitions and experience volunteer works. Following a visit to the Olympic Museum, they had the chance to meet with the President of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Thomas Bach, who had previously invited the students to join him at a softball or a baseball game to be played in Fukushima during the Tokyo 2021 Olympic and Paralympic Games. At the meeting with President Bach, the students sang ‘Hana wa Saku’ (Flowers Bloom), a song written by film director Shunji Iwai in prayer for disaster reconstruction, and proposed that the song be sung at the Games before matches in the Azuma Stadium in Fukushima. One of the students has Shunji Iwai as his relative.

In addition to experiencing the spirit of peace, diversity and self-improvement associated to the Games, the Kids will also have the opportunity to visit international humanitarian organizations in Geneva: the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Interviews with Swiss para-athletes including Heinz Frei are also scheduled.

This homestay program was made possible through the support of many organizations including International Olympic Committee, IOC Coordination Commission for the Lausanne 2020 Youth Olympic Games, Swiss International Air Lines, Zurich Insurance Group, Zurich Life Insurance, Aiglon College, Association d'amitié Genève-Shinagawa and with the cooperation of host families. Participating this time are six junior and senior high school students, including four from Fukushima Prefecture. One of them will carry the Olympic Torch ahead of the Tokyo 2021 Games.