through the
power of sport

Sudo Masakazu

Senior Manager of Staffing Volunteer Team,
Human Resource Section, Sport Administration Department, Sports Bureau
Joined in 2017

Sudo has proven his mettle on the world stage as a Paralympic sailing competitor, all the while building his career as a systems engineer. He also has a plethora of experience as a competition support staff. He is going to bring his competitor spirit to ensure the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

In March of 1992, Sudo discovered a whole new world: sailing in Tokyo Bay. Though the bay was not beautiful even by generous standards, it stole his heart. The experience was unlike any on land. He found that on water, his performance was no different than any person, with or without an impairment. It was also the start of his new career as an athlete. Four years later, in 1996, sailing was added as a demonstration event at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, and Sudo competed as a member of the Japanese team. Since then, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been a constant companion in his life. He has been a challenger of breaking records, and has volunteered to support the tournament operations. Now, Sudo is working in The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020), out of the office that overlooks Tokyo Bay, where it all started.

No limitations on the job

Once as an athlete competing in an Australian tournament, Sudo made an amateur error: He mistook the starting time of his race. But it’s understandable given the circumstances. In the U.S. and Europe, where sailing is a major sport, professional support staff accompany the competitors, but Sudo was completely on his own. He had no money to rent a container to transport his yacht, and no mechanic to maintain it while he recuperated after a race. Add to that the fact that he was in a wheelchair, it comes as no surprise that he was physically exhausted. It was under these circumstances that he missed the race.An athlete without an impairment may have been able to pick up the pace and recover, but for Sudo loading his yacht was no small matter. He wasn’t going to make it. He had no choice but to give up, he thought. But at that moment, a volunteer he had never met before offered him a lift.

“That experience is my guiding principle as a tournament operation staff. I don’t set any limits like, ‘my job only goes up to here.’ All of my decisions centre on, what can I do to help the athletes focus on their race and perform their best? I do everything I can to make that happen. Even if it’s not related to the race, I will listen, I will give advice. I’ve even accompanied people from abroad as an interpreter.”

He wants to pass forward the generosity offered by the volunteer when he was a competitor to the next generation of competitors.

Creating a virtuous cycle by giving full attention to volunteers

Sudo is a member of the Human Resource Section where he serves as a bridge between the various sports managers and the Volunteer Promotion Division. He is the contact person for competition volunteers, a position which requires specialised sports knowledge. He is also involved in the orientation and training of the 80,000-strong volunteers that are recruited. One thing Sudo is conscious of by being in contact with volunteers is communicating to them their influence and potential. Volunteers have a big impact on the performance of the athletes. A negative word or passive response from a volunteer can cause an athlete to lose faith in the volunteer. As a result, athletes won’t request their help when they need it.

“I want to create a virtuous cycle. Enthusiastic volunteers will draw out an athlete’s performance. That positive experience will make people feel good that they participated, and more people will feel that it was a turning point in their lives. And that breeds positive expectations for future Games. To accomplish that, keeping the passion burning in volunteers and connecting that to the future is very important. I have to ensure that. In this large organisation, the number of organising committee staff who interact with the competition volunteers is limited, so I have a big responsibility. And that is precisely why regardless of how tired I am or even if I think something is just a small matter, I want to always give the volunteers my full attention and try to share this wonderful life experience.”

Sport has the power to change people’s awareness

At a sporting event, people of different backgrounds and values put their differences aside and naturally come together, and this generates the power to transform society with its myriad problems. Sudo wants to leverage the power of sports to transform how society sees people with an impairment.

“I want to change the perception that people with with an impairment are pitiable. For example, in sailing, a Para athlete can compete under the same condition as any athlete and win the race. Weak or strong, can or can’t, they all come down to the individual. I don’t think it has much to do with whether you have an impairment or not, and I want to spread this awareness using the power of sport. I want to build a society where these differences really make no difference at all.”

There is a word “normalisation”, which means to promote a society where there is no material difference in lifestyle regardless of whether or not you have an impairment. Although this word has existed in Japan for the past 30 years, unlike in many countries abroad, it has yet to be realised here.
The Tokyo 2020 Games can be an opportunity to shed light on this situation. For this reason too, the Tokyo 2020 Games have to be a success. Start a virtuous cycle, beginning with yourself. This is what Sudo believes.

Sudo’s first encounter with a yacht was at an exhibition in Harumi,
but the area now has completely changed with no resemblance to the past.
Similarly, Sudo also had many life-changing experiences that made him the person he is today.
And now he is back where he started, with renewed determination:
To have sailing included in the Paralympic programme again.

Other members

職員紹介 井上 利彦サムネイル画像

Inoue ToshihikoJoined in 2014, Communications and Engagement Bureau

職員紹介 須藤 正和サムネイル画像

Tanio AmiJoined in 2018, Technology Services Bureau

職員紹介 井上 利彦サムネイル画像

Osawa MasaakiJoined in 2018, Transport Bureau

職員紹介 谷尾 亜実サムネイル画像

Bamba MichiyoJoined in 2019, Games Delivery Office

職員紹介 須藤 正和サムネイル画像

Li JasmineJoined in 2016, International Bureau