How do you assess the progress of Judo worldwide in the past year and what have been the highlights?
The implementation of the reforms in all the sectors, the social and educational programmes, promoted among most member federations, lead to an increased popularity of judo and an increased number of practitioners. The highlights of the past year were: judo becoming more spectacular after improving the rules and thus making judo more comprehensible for spectators and viewers, media partners and the judo community; the organization of quality events within the World Judo Tour; the last successful World Championships held in Budapest; the partnership with CNN which was signed last year; and last but not least, the introduction of the team event at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
What do you expect to be the judo highlights for the remainder of 2018 into next year?
The judo highlights of 2018 consist in strengthening the current strategy, attracting new media and marketing partners, and of course, having successful World Championships in Baku, in September.
What are your observations of the growth of the sport in terms of the numbers of young people taking up judo?
When it comes to the growth of judo among young people, some years ago we launched the programmes Judo for Children and Judo in Schools, which had a powerful impact on the appeal of judo to children and even their parents. Thanks to these programmes, the IJF supports a large number of countries along with local partners – Ministries of Education, Ministries of Sports and the National Federations. Furthermore, a long time ago we launched the programme Judo for Peace in numerous regions affected by political crises, with which we developed many projects in refugee camps, some in partnership with the United Nations.
What are the thoughts on the return of judo to the Olympic Games after more than half a century?
The 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games represent the return of our sport to its home after a long time. Not only is the introduction of the judo team competition to the Olympic Games a premiere, but also an indisputable value for the Olympic Games and their success in Tokyo.
How important is the addition of a team competition to the Olympic schedule and why?
The team competition is important and appealing as it covers a gamut of emotions and collective enthusiasm from the part of athletes and spectators, motivating more the national identity and the patriotic spirit than the individual competition. We have had the team competition for the National Federations in our calendar for a long time and it brings an undisputable added value for our sport. The team spirit implies a collective enthusiasm.
What do you feel are the unique selling points of judo for the public, players, media and sponsors?
The USP of Judo for the 2020 Olympics will be first of all the comeback of our sport to the traditions, spirit and culture of the Japanese people. And as I mentioned before, I conducted several reforms at all levels with regard to judo in order to make it more attractive and more understandable for the media and the followers. In the future, we will do our best to continue the reforms in our sport, to be up-to-date when it comes to the current requirements of the consumers so that we can contribute to the growth of the number of the spectators and viewers and the comprehension of our sport.
As President, what are you short and long-term objectives for your sport and what challenges do you face?
As president, my utmost mission is to continue ensuring all the necessary resources in order to develop and promote the popularity of our sport worldwide. Also, I want to offer the requisite conditions so that judo could continue forming generations of elite athletes, able to make the world a better and fair place and to contribute to the promotion of the Olympic values through our sport.