The role of the community in people’s lives has been shrinking over the years, and kids are growing up with fewer opportunities to interact with those in different age groups. The rapid graying of the population is pushing up health- and nursing-care costs, exacerbating already strained fiscal resources. These are issues confronting not just Japan but also an increasing number of countries around the world.
We at the Sasakawa Sports Foundation (SSF) believe that one way of tackling these issues is to utilize the power of sports to build a healthier, more vibrant, and more inclusive society.
Sports can lead to better physical and mental health and can also be used as a communication tool to bridge differences in age, language, and gender. Our task at the SSF is to help provide an environment where everyone can participate in sports and expand opportunities for interpersonal contact, thereby energizing and invigorating both individuals and communities. Such initiatives can not only encourage greater “self-help” efforts toward better health but also deepen understanding of others, fostering an altruistic desire for “mutual aid” and prompting the government to enhance “public assistance.”
And as people’s engagement with sports and the community increases, they will experience all three facets of sports: “participate,” “spectate,” and “volunteer.”
To achieve these goals, we undertake research activities to obtain the data needed to develop concrete, effective policy solutions. We then work with individual and organizational partners to implement those policies, actively engaging with the community to gauge their effectiveness and feeding the results back to our research team. The two pillars of our activities thus act as a feedback mechanism, enabling us to develop even better, more practical solutions confronting society.
A key component of this virtuous cycle is World Challenge Day—a day on which communities around the world encourage as many people as possible to be physically active. It provides an opportunity for not only individual participants to take up physical activity but also the host municipalities to directly engage with local residents and to promote good health and stronger community ties.
It has been thanks to our active involvement in Challenge Day that we have been able to conclude partnership agreements with a number of local governments to jointly develop and implement sports-related initiatives, and we hope to share the best, most successful practices with many more municipalities both in Japan and around the world.
It is our strong hope that our efforts to address social challenges through the power of sports will trigger similar initiatives abroad, and we intend to actively offer our insights to organizations sharing the Sports for All philosophy. At the same time, we seek to incorporate many innovative, promising practices from other countries, working closely with researchers and professionals around the globe to create a better world for all.