Japan101

How to Volunteer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Applications close early December.

Whether you’re absolutely sports obsessed, or just looking for an opportunity to be involved in a historic and global event, the Tokyo 2020 Games offers a real once-in-lifetime volunteering opportunity.

As of the 26th of September, applications are now open. There are thousands of positions available, but make sure you get in quick — the application process closes in early December.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games encourages people of all walks of life, nationality, and language ability to apply. No matter what your expertise or experience, you’re sure to find something that fits you.

Types of volunteer at Tokyo 2020

There are two types of volunteer you can choose from:

  • Games Volunteer
  • City Volunteer

The specific tasks you participate in will be dependent on the position you have received.

Games Volunteer City Volunteer
Summary
  • Recruited by the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to aid Games participants and staff
  • Volunteers will operate at Games-related facilities such as Games venues and the Athletes’ Village
  • Recruited by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to aid Games spectators and tourists visiting Tokyo
  • Volunteers will operate at major train stations, airports and tourist spots
Number of places available 80,000 30,000
Hours per day Around 8 hours, including two 30-minute breaks and a 1-hour meal break Around 5 hours, with 30-minute meetings before and after, and meal breaks included
Number of days required to volunteer A minimum of 10 days across the event A minimum of 5 days across the event

Note: Games Volunteers and City Volunteers are separate, and require separate applications. Most applicants will apply to be one, or the other. You can choose to apply to both, however, if you decide to undertake both positions you must make sure your working days do not overlap and that you can complete the minimum required days for each respective position.

What Games Volunteers will do

There are 10 different role categories to choose from when applying to volunteer. Tasks differ based on each.

Any

You are happy to go wherever you’re needed

Guidance

  • Checking tickets, supporting security and guiding spectators and participants
  • Providing assistance at airports and hotels to make sure participants find their accommodation
  • Target: 16,000-25,000 volunteers

Events

  • Providing support at the competition and event venues
  • Target: 15,000-17,000 volunteers

Mobility Support

  • Providing transportation support to participants between venues
  • Target: 10,000-14,000 volunteers

Personal Support

  • Welcoming foreign delegates at airports and venues, and ensuring they have smooth working conditions
  • Providing foreign language support to athletes within the Athletes’ Village as well as for media interviews after competitions
  • Target: 8,000-12,000 volunteers

Operational Support

  • Distributing uniforms at the uniform-distribution facility
  • Issuing IDs at the uniform-distribution facility, venues, airports etc.
  • Registering staff members
  • Administering the distribution of equipment to various stakeholders
  • Target: 8,000-10,000 volunteers

Healthcare

  • Providing transport for injured athletes and offering swift treatment for spectators or participants who suffer from a sudden illness or injury
  • Aiding in the transport of athletes to the first-aid room
  • Supporting doping officials to administer tests
  • Target: 4,000-6,000 volunteers

Technology

  • Helping distribute and collect communications and technology equipment
  • Displaying event results and entering data
  • Target: 2000-4000 volunteers

Media

  • Providing support to members of the domestic and international media
  • Helping manage reporters and photographers, and supporting at press conferences
  • Distributing the Athletes’ Village newspaper
  • Aiding in the photographic and videographic documentation of the Tokyo 2020 Games
  • Target: 2,000-4,000 volunteers

Ceremonies

  • Offering support at ceremony events
  • Guiding athletes and participants
  • Conveying medals and other items
  • Target: 1,000-2000 volunteers

What City Volunteers will do

Unlike the Games Volunteers, the City Volunteers only have one role category available.

General Position

  • Acting as the “face” of Tokyo and offering a warm welcome to athletes, visitors and tourists from all over Japan and the world
  • Helping build a positive, friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere for the 2020 Games and the city of Tokyo throughout the Games period
  • Providing transport and tourism information to tourists and guiding spectators at locations such as airports, major train stations, tourism areas, and stations near to Games venues and live sites
  • Using conversational Japanese and other languages to aid visitors, tourists and spectators
  • Target: 20,000-30,000

Who can apply to be a volunteer

Positions are open to essentially everyone. Overseas applicants, applicants of varying language ability, and people living with disability or impairment are all encouraged to apply. There are only two major requirements for applicants:

  • The volunteer must be born on or before April 1, 2002
  • The volunteer must be a Japanese national or an individual with a valid visa permitting residence during the volunteer period (short-term stay and standard holiday visas are fine)

Note: Games Volunteers do not accept group applications (if you require a caregiver to aid you, a separate application must be filled out for them), however, this is fine for City Volunteers. Additionally, unlike the Games Volunteers, City Volunteers must be able to hold a simple conversation in Japanese.

Application process

As of early October, over 60,000 people have already applied, 30,000 of which have officially completed the process. For both the Games Volunteers and City Volunteers, the application process is not first come, first served; you are not 100% guaranteed a volunteer position if you apply. Those who are multilingual and can speak other languages in addition to English and Japanese will be looked upon favourably, as will those who have previous experience volunteering. If you have any official certificates such as JLPT, TOEFL or equivalent qualifications for other languages, make sure to include those in your application to boost your chances.   

Potential volunteers are screened through the process of reviewing applications and by conducting interviews.

After you submit your application, all you have to do is wait to be contacted. The briefing and interview period runs between January to July, 2019. If your application is successful, and you pass the interview, orientation sessions begin from February 2019.

Orientation and training

Once you have been accepted as a volunteer, you will embark on an 18-month orientation and training adventure.

Games Volunteers

Time Period Activity
Jan, 2019-Jul, 2019 Orientation notification (briefing, interviews etc.)
Feb, 2019~ Orientation sessions
Sep, 2019~ Notification of training sessions
Oct, 2019~ General training
Mar, 2020~ Notification of role and location
Apr, 2020~ Role-specific training
May, 2020~ Uniform distribution
Jun, 2020~ Venue-specific training

City Volunteers

Time Period Activity
Jan, 2019~ Interview notification
Feb, 2019-May, 2019 Interviews, information sessions, etc.
Sep, 2019~ Candidates selected for training
Oct, 2019-February, 2020 General training
Mar, 2020~ Those who have successfully completed training are notified of their selection as a volunteer  
Apr, 2020~ Role-specific training
May, 2020~ Uniform distribution
Jun, 2020~ Locations-specific training

Orientation sessions

Orientation sessions will operate all over Japan, starting in early February for Tokyo and running until late July for Fukuoka. For those living overseas, these sessions will be conducted via video call between March and July, 2019.

All applicants must attend one orientation session. Each session runs for about two hours, and will aim to give the applicant a chance to get a feel for the atmosphere of the Olympics as well as building teamwork skills.

Generic training sessions

In addition to orientation, each volunteer must also undergo a generic training session that will last for around 3-4 hours. This training session will allow volunteers to gain the basic knowledge that is required to become a Games or City volunteer. After receiving the required attendance notification, the applicant will choose their desired date.

Dates (Planned) Location Comments
Oct, 2019 – Feb, 2020 Tokyo 5 days per week
Oct 2019 – Jan, 2020 Outside Tokyo 2 days per region
Jun, 2020~ Tokyo (Overseas applicants) Details pending

Venue and location-specific training

The final training session will be specific to the role which the applicant has received. For Games Volunteers, this final session will be relevant to their venue, while for City Volunteers it will be specific to the location where their volunteering will take place.

How to apply

For Games Volunteers, applications are only accepted online, while for City Volunteers applications are accepted online, and by fax and mail. However, it is strongly encouraged that applicants apply online if able.

To apply to become a Games Volunteer, click here; otherwise, to become a City Volunteer, click here.

All applicants will be required to provide a photo ID which shows their name, address and date of birth (such as a driver’s license or passport). If applicable, have a scanned copy of your TOEFL, IELTS or equivalent English or other language certificates ready to go. Make sure that all images are correctly formatted (JPG, JPEG, PNG or BMP).  

For both Games Volunteers and City Volunteers, applications close in early December, 2018.

What you get out of becoming a volunteer

In addition to getting to meet new people, experience new things, and be a part of history, there are a few specific things that the Tokyo 2020 Games offers its volunteers.

  • Olympic and Paralympic Games uniforms (including a shirt, jacket, pants, cap, shoes and a bag)
  • Free food and drink during work days
  • Full insurance
  • Compensation of travel expenses from the volunteer’s home or accommodation to the venue (up to ¥1000 per day)

Career benefits and the positives of volunteering

There are an absolute ton of career benefits associated with participating in volunteer work. For a start, volunteer experience will not only look fantastic on your resume, but will also show potential future employers that you are motivated, socially conscious and proactive. Volunteer work can help you refine your skills and develop new ones, while also giving you a wealth of networking opportunities and “real-world experience.”

Additionally, if you are an overseas applicant without previous experience working internationally, volunteering with the Tokyo 2020 Games will give you the chance to increase your intercultural communication and interpersonal abilities: a skillset which is highly valued in a world that is growing increasingly global.

For those of you already living and/or working in Tokyo, volunteering is a fantastic way to get involved in your community and make some new friends. Volunteer work is also known to have a positive impact on self-esteem, mental health and the development of social skills.        

Criticism

It should be noted that the Tokyo 2020 Games have faced some backlash for its volunteer program. Some of this has been directed at the design of the website as a few users have found it difficult to navigate, especially on mobile. However, most of the criticism is centered on the Games’s lack of financial reimbursement and its refusal to pay for the flights/accomodation of its volunteers. At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics 2018, volunteers were offered free accommodation; At Rio 2016, volunteers were offered no accommodation or reimbursement at all. Some feel that this is unfair given that the Olympics receive billions each year in sponsorship, however, the nature of the role remains the same — volunteer positions are, generally, unpaid ones.

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