IOC selection of Tokyo for 2020 Olympics provides opportunity for Japanese handball

Shinzo Abe

Tokyo delegation reacts to winning 2020 Olympics. What will it mean for Japanese Handball?

The IOC selection of Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics is big news.  There aren’t a whole lot of events in the world where so many future plans hinge on a truly unknown outcome.  To the sports minded citizens of Turkey and Spain the disappointment is grand, while in Japan there is great joy.  There just simply can be no “in between” feeling for the nations involved.

And in terms of the Team Handball programs in those countries it’s roughly the same story.  Perhaps for the Spanish national teams it’s no big deal.  It’s hard to project 7 years out, but Spain will likely be in the mix for qualification without the guaranteed slot that Olympic hosting provides.  For Turkish Team Handball, however, it could have been a significant boon to their national teams to have participated in their first ever Olympics.  Neither the Turkish Men’s or Women’s programs have ever qualified for the World or European Championships, but at times they’ve shown some competitiveness.  In particular, I remember the Women’s team drawing France several years ago in a June Playoff event only to lose on aggregate in the 2nd leg.  In all likelihood an Istanbul Olympics would have given the sport a boost similar to what Greece received before and after the 2004 Olympics.  And who knows perhaps with good planning and a little luck maybe it would have led to sustained growth for the sport in that country.

For Japan it clearly is a chance for resurgence as the Women’s national team hasn’t been the Olympics since their sole appearance in 1976 and the Men’s national team, while it has been to the Olympics 5 times, it hasn’t qualified since 1988.   It’s also probably not lost on Japanese Handball that it’s no coincidence that the 1988 Seoul Olympics also marked a turning point in Asian handball to Korean domination that has now lasted a quarter of a century. Undoubtedly, the industrious Japanese are probably contemplating right now just how they might duplicate the success that the Koreans had in Seoul.

Certainly, the possibility exists and unlike the recent British effort to build off of their 2012 opportunity, the Japanese will not be starting from scratch.  At times the women have been competitive with the Koreans and they’ve been to the World Championships several times.  The men’s program has been less successful, but they can point to Daisuke Miyazaki, a talented center back who scored 104 goals during his one season in the Liga Asobal.  Miyazaki will be 39 come 2020, but perhaps the Japanese Federation will find a couple of more players to take his place in the meantime.  One such player may be 27 year old Ryota Tanimura who joined Berlin Fuchse and will be playing for the club’s 3 division team.  Interestingly, Berlin coach Dagur Sigurdsson played 3 years in Japan and still has ties with his former club there.  Perhaps the former Austrian National Team coach might be a candidate to take over the Japanese program?  Regardless, with 7 years to plan and develop it will be interesting to see if Japanese handball can take advantage of their Olympic opportunity.